Football Betting (AKA: Soccer Betting)
Soccer, known as football outside the US, is the most popular viewed and watched sport in the entire world. In the United States however, our own professional league Major League Soccer (MLS) is nowhere near as popular as NFL football, NBA basketball, MLB baseball, or even college sports. As a result, not all Americans are even aware of the intricacies of soccer betting. In this article I’ll cover some of these, but for the experienced bettor I’ll start with discussing the best online sportsbooks for soccer betting.
Of the sportsbooks listed above, www.bovada.lv has the largest number of soccer markets. Their software host also runs a UK focused sportsbook as well as an Asian bookie which were both previously shirt sponsors for EPL soccer. This is one the few US sites that offers live in-play betting, mobile betting, and unique soccer propositions for MLS and all the major European and Asian Leagues.
www.5dimes.com is another site decent for betting soccer from the US due to their low margin odds. If you’re betting over/under or betting on home, away, draw you’ll be hard pressed to find better odds. They also cover betting not only on MLS, but on the major soccer leagues around the world, including some smaller market competitions. Make sure when joining 5dimes you decline the bonus because asking for it results in giving up their reduced juice option which is a far better deal. From here under the soccer column of the straight bet’s menu look for a tab that says reduced. Clicking this tab will get you the best soccer odds available at all US sportsbooks.
How to Bet Soccer
The first thing to explain is the most popular bet in soccer is called 1X2. This is a 3-way market where you can bet either home, away or draw. It’s worth noting if you bet on a team (not the draw) and the match finishes regulation tied your bet is a loss. This confuses many Americans who are used to this situation resulting in a push in other sports.
The other thing that confuses American bettors new to soccer betting is that unless otherwise stated all soccer bets are for regulation time only. This means any matches that have extra halves or penalty shootouts involved due to a regulation draw were often already decided for betting purposes. So, for example, you bet United States -0.5 in a knockout round of the Olympics, and they win in extra-time or shootout - your bet is a loss. You needed them to win by at least -0.5 in regulation time.
Outside these small intricacies soccer betting works much like other forms of betting such as football and basketball. You can be who will win straight up, can bet on the point spread, the over/under, correct scores and usually many additional propositions.
Editor’s note: The remainder of this article will refer to soccer as football for the benefit of our non-US refers.
Popular Football Betting Fixtures
In this section I’ll cover the most popular football leagues but it’s worth noting that some online bookmakers offer odds on football matches of even the most remote leagues, tournaments and competitions. An example is Estonia’s Meistriliiga football, which is the top level league in a country with a population of just 1.3 million. Several teams in this league are not even fully professional, yet around a dozen online bookmakers cover it for betting. www.bet365.com is one such site that covers top leagues and second and third division from more than 80 countries. I mentioned this first to emphasize what’s covered in this article is only a small-fraction of the many football fixtures available for betting.
European Football Leagues
The most popular football leagues wagered online are located in Europe and are governed by Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which is the largest of FIFA’s six confederations. This is home to the world’s largest and most heavily sponsored football league, the English Premier League (Barclays Premier League for sponsorship reason).
The English Premier League (EPL) has world-wide media coverage and draws betting action from more than 150 countries. In England betting has long been legal. For this reason many of the teams have an official online betting partner and also have betting booth set up inside their stadium. With large international appeal many betting sites are on-shirt sponsors of EPL teams. This includes European bookies Bet365 (Stoke City) and 32Red (Swansea City) and Asian bookies SBOBet (West Ham United) and 12Bet (Wigan Athletic).
There’s also much international on-shirt sponsorship. Popular South East Asian airline AirAsia sponsors the Queens Park Rangers, two Dubai airlines Emirates and Etihad sponsor Arsenal and Manchester City. Thailand’s beer company Chang sponsors Everton and Malaysia casino conglomerate Genting sponsors Aston Villa. In many countries, especially Asia, fans follow EPL football more closely than their own domestic clubs, and teams such as Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United are household names.
While EPL is no doubt the most popular, there is still a debate which UEFA league has the best players and teams. La Liga from Spain gives EPL much competition and has two of Europe’s top teams in Barcelona and Real Madrid. Not too far behind is Serie A from Italy and then German Bundesliga which is home to powerhouse clubs Bayern Munich and Leverkusen. Other UEFA leagues quite popular and followed are French Ligue 1, Holland’s Eredevisie, and Portugal’s Primeira Liga. This names only some of the many UEFA top-level leagues.
During the domestic seasons teams compete for both the championship of their league and for a spot in the UEFA Champions League. The latter is the pinnacle competition of club level play in with the best teams from all UEFA member countries competing to decide which is best. UEFA Champions League draws as much viewership, international following and betting revenue as many of the top UEFA leagues. It is perhaps only out-notched by EPL and La Liga, and only for reason Champions League season is much shorter.
The major international football competitions take place every four years and draw the largest betting volume. Of these events the World Cup is most prestigious. The 2014 version will be held in Brazil. This will see 32 qualify nations compete for a true a “world” championship. The next most popular are the regional competitions held every four years. The next majors are the 2015 Copa America (CONMEBOL) and Euro 2016 (UEFA).
The other four FIFA regions also have regional championships. Next up is 2015 AFC Asian Cup. This is contested by obvious Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, but also includes Middle East nationals Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and even Israel and India, and since the 2007 version has included Australia. After that comes to 2016 OFC Nations Cup contested by New Zealand and many small Island Nations of the Asian Pacific (Oceania) region. The remaining two regionals are held every two years, as opposed to four years. The next ones scheduled for these are the 2013 CONCACAF Golf Cup contested by top North America, Central America, and the Caribbean national teams and the 2013 African Cup of Nations sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The 2016 Olympics is another upcoming football tournament popular for betting. This event uses the under 23 teams of each nation plus a few professional players that are allowed on each. This can cause some smaller nations that field football players to other nations to be more competitive on the Olympic scale than they are in World Cup play. For example South Korea defeated their rival Japan in the bronze medal match at the 2012 Olympics while neither is favoured to go deep in the 2014 World Cup.
Other Football Competitions
There are many other popular football leagues and competitions in addition to the European Leagues and international competitions covered so far. One certainly worth a mention is Major League Soccer (MLS) from the United States. This league has attracted big names such as Thierry Henry, David Beckham and Robbie Keane. Also for reason it runs March to December, which is right through the break of major European leagues, it does attract some wagers from European looking to fill the void.
In South America football is governed by FIFA regional body Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL). Here the most popular leagues are Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro Série A and the Argentine Primera División. The top teams from these leagues as well other South American leagues such as Uruguay’s Primera División and the Mexican Primera División compete in Champions League called Copa Libertadores which can also be bet online.
A final regional worth mentioning is the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Here the top leagues are Japan’s J-League, Korea’s K-League and Australia’s A-League through there are 31 popular AFC leagues for betting. There is also an AFC Champions League contested by the top teams of each division. You can learn about all these in our article on Asian football betting.
Best Non-US Football Betting Sites
Every bookmaker on the planet takes bets on dozens, if not hundreds, of football leagues and competitions. There are however many difference between online betting sites. For anyone living elsewhere, here are some of the best non-US bookmakers for football betting (US players not accepted).
Bet365.com is the popular choice for football betting. They’ve been in business since 1974 and also own 84.4% of the English Premier League franchise Stoke City FC. As I’ll mention later in this article they cover all the popular leagues as well as the most remote football competitions held around the world. One of the biggest draws to using them is they offer the best sign up bonus and have the best football promotions. Their famous offer is their Bore Draw refund. Whenever ANY match finishes 0-0 Bet365 refunds all Correct Score, Half-Time/Full-Time and Scorecast bets. Also for Premier League, Serie A, Primera Liga, Bundesliga 1 and Champions League they offer an accumulator bonus of 5% for winning trebles, 7.5% for 4-folds, 10% for 5-folds and an additional 10% for each additional fold. These winnings are paid on top of what the accumulator betting slip reads. Bet365 is also tops for live betting and mobile betting, and they support more languages and currencies than any other betting website.
Bwin.com is another excellent site for football betting. They’re owned by the world’s largest online gambling corporation bwin.party digital entertainment. The big draw here is more betting markets per match than any other football betting site. If you fancy having the ability to wager unique proposition such as total throw-ins, last team carded, last goal keeper to the touch the ball and any other markets you can imagine BWIN has these as well ones you’d never have dreamed up. For the biggest football matches it’s not uncommon to find BWIN offering 125 markets or more on a single match.
PaddyPower.com is the most fun bookmaker to have an account with. They have entertaining reps on twitter, during all popular matches. Here you’ll find what they call pricegasms which are increased odds (always +EV, though small betting limits) on big matches. These happen multiple times per day, and there are other promos running on their website. If you bet small, €7.50 to €30 per game, you’ll be amazed at how much better value PaddyPower offers than competing football betting sites.
188Bet.com is an Asian bookie that also has long sponsored UK football clubs. Even though Asia is their primary market, anyone from anywhere can open an account with them. This is highly recommended for reasons 188bet offers some of the best betting odds in the industry and is competitive with betting exchanges such as Betfair, and low margin sportsbooks such as Pinnacle Sports. Often times you’ll be hard pressed to find better odds on Asian handicaps than 188bet offers. The same is often also true for totals and 1x2. They are also live betting and mobile betting specialists.