Soccer is quickly growing in popularity in the United States, as is betting on soccer, which differs a bit from betting on most mainstream American sports. For one, soccer features low-scoring games that often end in ties. This means many bets have to include draw scenarios and there are no large point spreads to cover.
The other big difference between mainstream American sports and soccer is that soccer is much more decentralized. Unlike the NFL or NBA, the MLS is far from the only game in town when it comes to professional soccer. In fact, many Americans fans prefer to follow the English Premier League, the European Champions League, or La Liga in Spain, among others. And beyond league play, no soccer event is more popular among sports bettors than the World Cup, which pits 32 nations in a in a round-robin tournament to decide the best in the world.
Here we will look at how to bet on soccer games, the different types of bets you can make, and the different soccer leagues you can bet on in the United States.
Soccer odds are different than most mainstream American sports, primarily because there are few goals scored overall and many of the games end in draws. Soccer bets also tend to only count 90 minutes of regulation time, so extra time wins do not count toward many bets.
One type of soccer bet is the 3-way moneyline. Rather than bet only on which team will win, you can wager on a Team A win, a Team B win, or whether the match will end a draw. The moneyline is the ratio of the initial bet to the payout, so if Manchester United is a -130 favorite, you would need to wager $130 to win $100. If Chelsea is a +325 underdog, your $100 bet would net you $325. With a 3-way moneyline, you also have a draw, so if a sportsbook has a draw at +250 odds, your $100 bet would net you $250.
You can also make a 2-way moneyline bet. One way is to eliminate the draw, which means you will have higher odds and many games will end in ties and, subsequently, refunds. You can also place a 2-way bet with a draw, so you would still win if you bet on Team A, but the payouts are significantly lower because the risk is reduced.
Like sports with point spreads, soccer has goal lines, which are typically -0.5-goal but can be significantly higher depending on the matchups. With a goal line bet, a team must win by a certain margin in order to pay out. So if a France is a -2.5 favorite over Argentina, France would have to win by 3 or more goals to pay out while Argentina would pay out even if they lose, as long as it is by 2 goals or fewer.
As with other sports, you can bet on the point total, or whether the final score will be over or under the projected total. Since scoring is at a premium in soccer, most sportsbooks will have the odds set at 2.25-2.75 combined goals.
The English Premier League
The English Premier League may have even more fans in the United States than the MLS. The Premier League features 20 teams with each squad playing 38 matches between August and May, mostly on Saturdays and Sundays. Unlike other sports, there are no playoffs and the champion is determined based on a system of points accrued from wins and ties during the season.
Spanish La Liga
La Liga is an increasingly popular league in the US thanks to the popularity of teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid and players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who has since moved to Juventus. La Liga features 20 teams with each team playing 38 matches and accruing points, like the Premier League.
Bundesliga is only starting to get more attention in the States thanks to the popularity of Bayern Munich but it has the highest stadium attendance of any football league in the world. The league features 18 teams who play 34 games, mostly on Saturdays and Sundays.
Italian Serie A
Italian Serie A has been home to many of the world’s best soccer players, as more Serie A players have won the Ballon d’Or than any other league. It got an even biggest boost with Ronaldo moving to Juventus, who has dominated the league along with Milan and Internazionale. The league features 20 teams who play 38 games each between August and May with the league winner determined by points accrued during the season.
European Champions League
The UEFA Champions League is among the top tournaments in soccer and features 32 teams in a double round-robin tournament in which 16 teams advance to a knockout phase in May. The tournament runs from late June until May and features the top teams in each European league.
The runners up in each league who do not advance to the Champions League are eligible for the UEFA Europa League, the second-tier competition. The tournament features 48 teams in a double round-robin before four rounds of two-legged knockout rounds and one final match.
The MLS has come a long way and continues to establish itself as a legitimate global soccer league. The league now features 24 teams who each play 34 games between March and October before a 14-team playoff that stretches until November.
Soccer Betting Markets
Now that you are familiar with the different leagues and goal line, 3-way moneyline, and 2-way moneyline betting, you can begin to experiment with more exotic bet types offered at online sportsbooks.
Handicap betting is similar to point spread betting, in that teams get awarded “goals” or deducted “goals” to make the matchup more even on paper. You can also make a correct score bet, which requires you to correctly identify the final score, an obviously difficult challenge but one that comes with high payouts.
While most soccer bets are based on regulation time scores, you can also make full time bets in case there is extra time and half time bets to wager on what the score will be after the first half. You can also make first and last goal scorer bets, which are essentially prop bets, and wager on who will score the first and last goals of the game.
You can also parlay two or more bets, which means combining multiple bets into one. All of your bets must then hit in order to win, which increases the risk but also the size of the payouts.