It’s taken longer than many expected, but soccer it’s safe to say that soccer has established itself as the fifth major team sport in the United States alongside football, baseball, basketball and hockey.
Soccer has been the most popular sport in the world for decades, but the continued growth of MLS and expansion of the domestic television market to include international leagues and competitions has helped the sport reach new heights of popularity in America.
As mentioned in the open, Major League Soccer (MLS) has seen incredible growth since the league was introduced back in 1996. When the United States was chosen as the country to host the 1994 World Cup, FIFA required the USA to create a domestic professional soccer league. Things started off incredibly small and it took a long time to catch on, but the league is finally beginning to put itself on the map not only in the U.S., but around the world.
The league started with 10 teams during its inaugural season in ’96, but has expanded to 22 teams starting in 2017. The league added franchises in Atlanta and Minnesota for the ’17 campaign, and there is a second team set to begin play in Los Angeles starting in 2018. There are several other cities around North America vying for MLS expansion clubs, as well.
The growth of MLS has aided soccer’s surge into the mainstream, but it also helps that American fans can now watch games taking place abroad. NBC acquired the rights to broadcast the English Premier League in 2013, and the deal has brought massive windfall and increased popularity to the English game.
In an attempt to duplicate NBC’s success, FOX acquired the rights to broadcast Germany’s Bundesliga starting in 2015. BeIn Sports is a provider of Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1, as well. Fans can also seek coverage of Liga MX (Mexican league) on stations like Univision, Univision Deportes, UniMas, and more.
Nowadays, there is absolutely no shortage of soccer television coverage in the USA. You can typically find a game from any of Europe’s major leagues or an MLS or Liga MX game somewhere on your TV dial. This wasn’t the case as recently as a decade ago, so a lot has changed.
Massive worldwide tournaments also garner plenty of attention. ESPN has long held the broadcast rights to the FIFA Men’s World Cup, and FOX will take over starting in 2018 when the event is held in Russia. ESPN and FOX have also broadcast the Euro tournament as well as a number of other national competitions.
FOX hit a home run with their domestic coverage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as well. The event generated more than $40 million in ad revenue for the broadcasting network, which was over double what most expected. By comparison, the same event generated just $6 million in ad revenue back in 2011. If that doesn’t illustrate the way soccer’s popularity has burgeoned in the United States in such a short time, nothing will.
As is the case with every major sport, there is massive worldwide interest in gambling on soccer. Soccer generates more gambling revenue than any other sport on earth, and it’s easy to see why. Soccer games are available on television just about everywhere on the world, and most countries have their own domestic leagues. That makes games easier to follow, and, as a result, helps attract bettors.
Soccer is the most popular sport on earth, so it makes sense that it is also the game that generates the most betting interest on a global scale. As of 2013, the BBC estimated that soccer gambling generated between $700 billion and $1 trillion in revenue per year. One would imagine that number has continued to climb since then, especially given the aforementioned surge in popularity in the USA.
As of 2013, more than $33 billion had been awarded to more than 61 million people worldwide in soccer betting winnings.
Frankly, you can bet on soccer pretty much everywhere, especially the biggest matches and competitions. There is no shortage of options if you’re looking to get in on the action. Bovada is the site that has emerged as the No. 1 destination for American bettors in recent years. If there’s a soccer game taking place just about anywhere in the world, you can probably find a line for it at Bovada.
The same can be said for Intertops, BetOnline, TopBet and MyBookie. Each of these sites offers a number of options, not just game spread or moneyline. You can bet on implied totals (over/under) and they offer live betting options, too. Prop betting is one of the fastest-growing aspects of sports betting as a whole, and, as expected, each of these sites has a number of props available, too. In-game props and futures bets are also on the table.
If you aren’t based in the USA, a site like Betway, bet365 or Paddy Power may sound familiar. These are three of the most well-respected sports books in the industry, and a few of them have even been successful enough to buy ad space on soccer jerseys themselves. That’s no small feat.
Just about every legitimate betting website out there has betting minimums and maximums, and they tend to fluctuate on a sport-by-sport basis. Let’s use Bovada as an example. Bovada tends to focus its efforts on bettors in North America, and the limits are higher for sports on which they see most action. The NFL and college football are incredibly popular sports for Bovada, so their limits are higher. Spread bets for NFL and college football games are capped at $2,000.
The bet is substantially smaller for soccer at Bovada. A moneyline bet on soccer is capped at just $500 over there. However, soccer is more popular at BetOnline. As a result, a moneyline bet on the 2014 FIFA World Cup was capped at $5,000.
If you want to place a more lucrative bet on a soccer match, you’ll likely find higher limits at bookmakers based in the UK and elsewhere in Europe than you will at sites more geared towards luring American bettors. The limits figure to keep rising as more American bettors get into soccer, of course. For now, looking overseas for increased limits is the way to go.
As mentioned previously, there are plenty of ways to bet on soccer. Two-way outcome and three-way outcome betting (detailed in the FAQ section) are the two most popular, but live bets and prop bets are gaining steam as fun alternative options.
You can bet on when you think goals will be scored (1st half, 2nd half, first 20 minutes, etc.), which player will score next, how the player will score (by head or by foot), winning margin for the winning team, and so on.
Live betting tends to be tricky when it comes to soccer, especially because the outcomes of the games can vary wildly. Picking a heavy favorite like Real Madrid to win a game is easy. Picking which player will score next or by how many goals that team will win brings a considerably heavier challenge. As a result, there’s usually more of an edge to be found in live betting than there is on static pregame bets. That’s a huge reason for the surge in popularity in-play betting has enjoyed in recent years.
Probabilistically speaking, a draw would seem to be the most likely outcome in some games. However, more often than not there is likely to be at least one goal scored in every game. If a game remains without a goal for a significant amount of time, the odds of the game resulting in a draw will increase. That likely means there’s a decent edge to be found if you place a live bet on one team eventually finding themselves a goal and coming out on top.
Being cognizant of external motivations is always something about which to be cognizant when betting on soccer, too. Narratives may be tough to prove with numbers, but there tends to be heightened intensity and pressure involved with rivalry games, such as El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
What is a Three-Way outcome? The most basic form of soccer gambling is based on the three-way outcome of a game. Team A wins, Team B wins, or they tie. Obviously, you may bet on whichever of these three outcomes you see fit.
What if the game ends in a draw? All soccer bets are settled on the 90 minutes of “regular time” played in a given game. If a game is tied after 90 minutes and heads into extra time, the result of that bet is a “draw”, regardless of which team eventually comes out on top. You can bet on the draw in a three-way outcome bet.
What is a “Both Teams to Score” bet? The concept here is incredibly simple. If you think both teams will score at least once in any given game, you can place a wager on just that. Obviously, you probably shouldn’t bet on this in a game that features what most expect to be a particularly one-sided matchup. However, there could be decent value.
What is a “Double Chance” bet? The three outcomes when it comes to soccer games are win, lose or draw. A Double Chance bet allows you to cover two of the three. If you think a team has a strong chance at coming out of a game with at least a point, you can bet on them to win or draw. You only lose the bet in this instance if the team on which you place the bet loses the game.
This is a form of hedging that could come in handy if you’re given particularly favorable odds. You’re covering two of the three bases here. These aren’t as common as the standard three-way outcome bet.
Soccer betting may be something of a fledgling market when it comes to the United States, but it’s easy to see why the beautiful game has such a grasp on betting interest from around the world. As popularity continues to increase in the USA, one would imagine the worldwide revenue soccer betting generates will continue to skyrocket.