Betting on soccer is almost as popular as the sport itself, and that's really saying something. While the NFL may be king in the United States, soccer rules the rest of the planet. In some countries, it's practically a religion.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about, this article should provide you with the basics of how to wager on soccer. In addition to outlining the major leagues, we'll cover the options for bettors and even suggest tips for improving your success.
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Soccer Leagues to Bet On
Once you've made up your mind to bet on soccer, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the various leagues around the globe. While not comprehensive, this section includes some of the most popular leagues with fans and bookmakers.
UEFA Champions League - Also known as the Champions League, this is the most highly regarded club competition in European football. Teams from across the continent seek to enter and win this annual tournament, and Real Madrid has enjoyed the most overall success.
UEFA Europa League - Formerly known as the UEFA Cup, this annual club competition allows teams to qualify based on their performances in cup competitions and national leagues. The most successful clubs in this tournament include Sevilla, Liverpool, Internazionale, and Juventus.
English Premier League - The top football competition throughout England, it is also the most popular soccer league in the world (with a potential audience of 4.7 billion). Popular teams include Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea.
English Championship - Within the English football league system, this division is second only to the Premier League. In fact, teams with the best finish can be promoted to Premier play. Among secondary leagues, it draws the most spectators.
Argentina Primera Division - The top league within the Argentine soccer world, it was founded in 1891. Their most successful club is River Plate, with over 35 title wins.
Brazil / Serie A - An annual tournament held for Brazilian soccer clubs. It's the top competition in the nation, and the 20 competing clubs each play 38 matches. The most successful teams have been Palmeiras and Santos.
France / Ligue 1 - The top division within the French soccer system. Much like other leagues around the world, 20 clubs operate each year under a system of relegation and promotion. Their most successful clubs include Saint-Etienne, Nantes, and Marseille.
Germany / Bundesliga 1 - At the top of the German soccer hierarchy, this league was founded in 1963 and boasts the highest average stadium attendance. Some of the most notable teams include Borussia Dortmund, Hamburger SV, and FC Bayern Munich.
Italy / Serie A - In operation for over 80 years, this is the premier league within the Italian football system. One of the most popular European leagues, it includes popular clubs such as Internazionale, Milan, and Juventus.
Mexico Primera Division - Also known as Liga MX, this is the top level of Mexican soccer. Eighteen clubs compete, and each year two tournaments are held. The most successful clubs have been Guadalajara and America.
Spain / La Liga - A 20-team league that dominates the soccer landscape of Spain. Considered among the strongest leagues in the world, it boasts such powerhouse clubs as Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Turkey / Super Lig - The premier league within the Turkish football system. Each of its 18 clubs competes in 34 matches, and the most successful have been Galatasaray, Besiktas, and Fenerbahce.
USA / MLS - Also known as Major League Soccer, this is the primary league throughout the United States and Canada. While the league suffered a rocky start, it has now become profitable and routinely beats the NHL and NBA for average attendance. The team with the best record at the end of the season receives the Supporters' Shield, and a post-season tournament is held to award the MLS Cup. While still a relatively new league, the most successful clubs so far have been the L.A. Galaxy and D.C. United.
Soccer Betting Options
Most bookmakers offer similar options when it comes to wagering on soccer. So whether you're using Bovada, TopBet, or some other online service, this is what you can expect to find:
Moneyline Bets - In the case of a moneyline wager, the bettor is choosing the winner of the match. The favorite club will have a negative sign in front of their number, while the underdog is indicated by a plus sign. For example:
AC Milan -115 vs Lazio +310 Draw +240
The favorite is AC Milan, and you would need to bet $115 in order to win $100. Lazio is the underdog, so a successful wager of $100 would pay out $310. Moneyline wagers for soccer also include the option for a draw, so the above example would pay bettors $240 for a $100 tie wager.
Over/Under - The bookmaker sets a number, and the bettor wagers if the final score will be higher or lower. For example, the over/under for a match featuring FC Chikhura Sachkhere against FK Neftchi Baku is 2 goals with a -115 payout both ways. A successful bettor would pick up $100 for a wager of $115 on either club.
Point Spread - This kind of wager is expressed in the following manner:
LA Galaxy -1 (-150) vs San Jose Earthquakes +1 (+115)
As you can see by the minus sign, the Galaxy are the favorites in this contest. According to the point spread, they'll have one goal deducted from their total at the end of the game. If this adjusted score is still enough to give them the lead, then a $150 wager pays out $100.
The Earthquakes are the underdog, and they'll get one goal added to their total. If they win outright or win with the adjusted score, then a $100 bet pays $115.
Some bookmakers also offer a First Half Line, which is the same concept. The only difference is that all the betting action is confined to the first half of the game.
Specials & Futures - A collection of unique betting options such as predicting how many trophies Manchester United will win in a season, the top goalscorer in a league, or the highest scoring team. My favorite is the "Major League Outright Parlay," which gives the bettor a chance to pick the winners from the four largest European leagues.
In-Play Betting - Instead of wagering on the match before it begins, this exciting option allows bettors to gamble on a game while it's underway. The point spread, moneyline, and over/under are all available.
5 Tips for Wagering On Soccer
In order to get your gambling career started, here are five important tips to consider when betting your money on a soccer match:
- Home vs Away - How does the club perform at home versus on the road?
- Injuries - Know which players on a team are dealing with injuries and how it might affect the club as a unit.
- Schedule - Is a team being forced to play two games close together? Does the club desperately need points? Are they playing in a game where a win isn't vital? All of these factors are important in picking a winning club.
- Pick a League - Instead of trying to become an expert on every soccer league, it's best to pick one or two and focus you attention on them.
- Know the History - Many soccer clubs have been playing each other for decades, and some traditionally dominate their opposition. Always know the history between opponents, especially in recent years.