The most popular sport in the world is football – but not the kind that Americans favor. The vast majority of the world calls soccer football. And while Americans love their football and that sport is the betting king in this country, it’s not even close to the type of action soccer takes around the world. Every country plays soccer, even the poorest. That’s what is great about the sport: All you need is a ball, even if that ball is made of tape.
So why don’t Americans have a love affair with soccer? Well, at the youth level it’s easily the most popular sport so things could change in a generation. Many, many more kids play soccer than baseball, hockey or football – and more and more parents are not allowing their children to play football because of health concerns.
Professional soccer likely is dragging in popularity in this country because:
1) There isn’t much scoring, and Americans love scoring in a sporting event
2) The rules, like offside can be somewhat confusing;
3) The USA isn’t very good at it, at least among the men, on the world stage and there is no superstar like a Michael Jordan for kids to idolize and want to grow up to be.
All that said, soccer is growing year by year in popularity, and Major League Soccer, the main professional league in the USA, is here to stay and seemingly expanding every year. What the sport really needs is for Team USA to actually win a World Cup – then soccer would truly explode in this country. Alas, that’s probably many years away after the USA embarrassingly missed qualifying for the last World Cup in 2018.
One great thing about being a soccer bettor, though: There are hundreds of matches going on throughout the world seemingly every day.
Types Of Bets
If one were to look at a sportsbook, the home team in American sports are always listed at the bottom/second. That’s not what the case in soccer -- just like in Europe, the home team is listed on top/first.
Because most soccer matches end 1-0, if not in a 0-0 draw, there is no point spread in the sport. Instead, the primary bets on a soccer match (and it’s match, not game) are on the goal line, moneyline and over/under total.
Let’s use an MLS match as an example between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls. One difference on the moneyline in a soccer match and in the NFL, NHL or NBA is a draw is included – so it’s a three-way moneyline instead of two. Frankly, that’s another reason why some Americans don’t like soccer: ties.
In this example, the Galaxy go off as -110 favorites, with the Red Bulls at +325 and a draw at +265. On a moneyline bet, a team needs only to win but it can’t tie. All moneylines are based on a $100 wager. In this example, it would cost $110 to win $100 on the Galaxy. A $100 wager on the Red Bulls would return +325, while a $100 wager on a draw would return $265. Most regular soccer matches will end after 90 minutes (plus stoppage time for injuries) with no extra time or shootout to determine a winner. In the elimination stages of the World Cup, there must be a winner but all bets are settled after 90 minutes of play (plus stoppage time).
The goal line functions as the spread and is typically 0.5 goals between teams that are relatively even in talent. The favorite on the moneyline isn’t always favored on the goal line – remember, many soccer matches end in draws. In this example, the Galaxy might be -120 at -0.5 goals and the Red Bulls even money at +0.5. Goal lines end in a half-goal increment to avoid a “push,” or tie.
Finally, the over/under total is simply the total goals scored. More often than not, these totals are set at 2.5 goals because so many matches end 1-1 or 2-1. Again, a moneyline price is attached to both the over or under and they can be the same price (-110). Or they can be far apart in price. Depends on the matchup.
Typical futures odds are on a team to win its league or, say the World Cup. Each club will be given a moneyline price, but there almost never will be a minus-priced favorite in those types of competitions. For example, as of this writing Brazil is the +600 favorite to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Spain, Germany and 2018 World Cup champion France are each +700. The Americans are +10000 – the USA hosts the 2028 World Cup with Canada and Mexico.
Obviously, no payout would be coming on a 2022 World Cup bet until after the final match that year. The World Cup is easily the most-wagered sporting event on the planet, dwarfing the Super Bowl.
There are far too many soccer props to mention – the options are another reason why this is the most-wagered sport in the world by far. One popular prop is a “draw no bet.” This essentially is two-way moneyline option like in an NFL, MLB or NBA game as it eliminates the draw as an option. You simply wager on which team will win. If your selection is successful, the bet is a winner. If the match ends in a draw, the bet is returned. If the team you bet to win loses, so do you.
Among some other popular props bets are alternate goal line spread; alternate totals; which teams kicks off; exact correct store (0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 2-0 and 2-1 are always favored); half time/full time result; winning margin; double chance; will both teams score; will either team keep a clean sheet (not allow a goal); which is last team to score; will there be a penalty shot; over/under total corners; will there be a red card; and numerous individual player props (will x player score, etc.).
It goes without saying to do your homework before match. Is a key player injured or out due to a red card accumulated in the previous match? Essential to shop around at sportsbooks for the best lines – there are so many soccer matches going on across the world, the numbers simply are going to be a bit different depending on where you look. Perhaps you hedge with a great price on a favorite at one site but an even better price on an underdog at another.
There’s also the Fibonacci strategy, which some subscribe to. Basically, this is the theory that the draw is the most difficult for bookmakers to predict, and therefore can be exploited. Simply put, bet on a draw with odds of at least +160 (that’s the floor), and if you lose bet on another one. Increase your betting stake in a way that follows the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc. If you continually increase your stake, any win will overcome losses.
Perhaps the biggest upset in sports history, from a season-long perspective, happened recently in the English Premier League – that’s the most popular soccer league in the world. Entering the 2015-16 Premier League season, little Leicester City was +5000 to win the title. The Foxes, after all, were only promoted to the Premier League after winning the Football League Championship in 2014 and barely escaped relegation the in the 2014-15 season. For a point of comparison, British bookmakers gave Kim Kardashian shorter odds than +5000 to become the next US president. Of course, Leicester City did win the title that ’15-16 season and the British bookmakers learned their lesson. They no longer put such long odds to win the EPL title.