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How to Bet on Soccer

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Soccer is the world’s game and most countries don’t call it soccer but football. In Europe, soccer dominates the sporting scene. Ditto in Africa and most of Asia. Central and South America are both soccer-mad. A recent study showed that more than four of every 10 people on this planet consider themselves soccer fans. Basketball came in second. 

One reason that soccer is so popular is that it’s basically free to play and can be anywhere there is a bit of open space. Go somewhere in Africa, and you will see barefoot children kicking around anything that resembles a ball if they don’t have an actual one.

Yet, oddly, soccer is not the No. 1 sport in the countries with the world’s two largest economies: the United States and China, although it’s definitely growing in both. In North America, soccer is king in Mexico, hockey is in Canada and American football is in the USA.

While more and more children are not being allowed to play football due to safety reasons, soccer is booming for pre-high school age kids. That’s going to eventually result in better television ratings in this country and more betting action. It would certainly help if the United States men’s team were better on the global stage as the Americans have never come close to winning a World Cup and embarrassingly missed the 2018 version.

Ask an American young girl, though, her favorite sport and it’s almost surely going to be soccer. Part of that is thanks to the U.S. women’s team being such a global powerhouse. For example, viewership in this country of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final won by the USA was about 23 percent higher than viewership of the 2018 men’s final. 

The primary soccer league in the USA is Major League Soccer and that’s also experienced huge growth. It currently is comprised of 26 teams (three in Canada) and will be up to 30 in 2022. With an average attendance of more than 20,000 per game, MLS has the third highest average attendance of any sports league in the USA. While MLS is booming, it’s still not close to being as strong overall as marquee leagues in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, France or Mexico.

The MLS was born ahead of America hosting the 1994 Men’s World Cup and soccer saw a major spike after that tournament. Expect another spike in 2026 when the USA hosts again, with a few games also being played in Canada and Mexico.

Here’s quick guide to betting on soccer. 

Soccer Picks

Goal Line (spread)

American football and NBA and college basketball both have point spreads, which are easy to understand. Like the NHL or Major League Baseball, soccer doesn’t have one because most games either end up tied – that’s one reason some Americans don’t like soccer because they don’t like ties – or decided by one goal.

However, in some matches there will be a goal line, where one team could be favored by as small as a half-goal. Then each result would be given a moneyline price. For examples here, let’s use the English Premier League, which is wildly popular in this country and the No. 1 league in the world.  Here is what a goal line might look like:

Manchester United: -0.5 (+125)

Liverpool: +0.5 (-120)

A backer of Manchester United would lose any if there’s a draw with Liverpool but would win if United win by at least a goal. A $100 bet on United would return $125, while it would take $120 on Liverpool to return $100. 

In some matches, there may not be a goal line if the teams are that even. Most do have a goal line of just 0.5 but in very lopsided international matches there could be a goal line as high as 2.5. 

Three-way moneyline

The primary way to bet on soccer is the winner regardless of score … but remember that in the vast majority of matches there can be a tie; there can’t be in the knockout rounds of major tournaments. So, a line might look like this:

Manchester United: Even

Liverpool: +245

Draw: +265

Soccer bets are based on results after 90 minutes of play or regular time. Overtime or shootouts don’t count. Even if it’s a match where there must be a winner like in the knockout round of the World Cup, this result is dependent only after regular time.

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Draw No Bet

This wager is similar to the three-way moneyline but eliminates the draw as an option – if there is one, money is returned as it’s “no bet.” The odds would change in this version, though, since the draw isn’t an option and it’s only on which team wins. So from the above example:

Manchester United: -200

Liverpool: +150

Total Bets

This is simply the number of goals scored in regulation time by both teams but soccer has a twist compared to other low-scoring sports. While some totals will be a number like 2 or 2.5 or 3 goals with a moneyline price attached to all three options, some books will offer a total of 2.25 of 2.75 goals. 

Manchester United: Over 2.25 (-125)

Liverpool: Under 2.25 (even)

In this example, if you bet on the over 2.25 goals half your bet is placed on over 2 and the other half is placed on over 2.5. Because there’s so little scoring, it makes financial sense to give the books options. In this wager, if Man United and Liverpool finish 1-1, you lose half your bet on over 2.5 and are refunded on over 2 because that’s a tie or “push.” If the match ends 2-1, you win both bets. 

Prop Bets

Once bettors understand the above basics, prop bets can really come into play as there are almost unlimited options. That’s one great thing about soccer is there are so many ways to bet and there’s probably a match going on somewhere in the world that a sportsbook is running action on 24 hours a day. 

For example, you can bet totals on each team or in the first or second half. How about a draw no bet wager on the first half? A first-half goal line wager? Care to bet on what the exact final score will be? More often than not, the favorite is going to be 1-1. 

How about a double chance? That allows you to cover two of the three possible outcomes in a football match with one bet. It’s similar to draw no bet in that there are only two options but the draw can be one of the options. It could look like this and you would only lose is Liverpool wins.

Manchester United/Draw: -125

Will one team keep a clean sheet? That means a shutout. Will both score? Which half is the highest scoring? Will one team win both halves? Which team scores first? How many corner kicks will there be combined in the match? Will a penalty shot be awarded in the match? Will a penalty be scored?

Then there are numerous individual player props available, although the smaller leagues generally will not offer these. Who will be the first goal scorer? Who will be the last to score? Will Cristiano Ronaldo score a goal at all?

And there are futures odds, like which teams wins the World Cup or English Premier League, etc. For example, Brazil is the current +550 favorite to win the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar. Defending champion France is +650. Countries that host a World Cup often have a huge advantage – plus they are automatically in without having to go through lengthy qualifying.

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