Soccer is the most popular betting sport online in terms of turnover and profitability for the sportsbooks. In Europe many matches are shown live on terrestrial and dedicated sports channels. The important league and Champions League matches can also be seen live in North American on channels such as ESPN.
There seems to be no limit to the range of leagues and markets that can be bet on for this sport. The major bookmakers have odds for up to 100 markets on even the most obscure matches and this number increases when a match is broadcast live as this presents additional in-running (live betting) opportunities.
Traditionally before the onset of the internet horse racing was the most poplar betting sport. The biggest betting market in Europe is the United Kingdom. Even as recently as 20 years ago the only way to place a bet was by entering a High Street betting office and paying by cash or by using a telephone debit or credit account.
The onset of the internet and online gambling changed the industry significantly. There are now hundreds of web based bookmakers and they all offer a wide selection of soccer markets. It is now possible to bet in-running, that is during the match as the odds change due to significant events like a goal, sending-off or penalty, and this is a massive growth area.
Historically, the most popular soccer betting market was the winner of a match and this still generates most turnover. However, bettors now have the opportunity to bet on many aspects of a soccer match and some of the most popular are described below:
In any soccer match there can be only three outcomes, namely home win, draw and away win. Simply put the team that scores the most goals wins the match and anybody who backed that team have a winning bet.
In devising odds for a soccer match compilers use statistics to determine the price for a draw. Statistically across all countries and leagues about 30% of matches end with both sides scoring the same number of goals. Specific past results for each side are then considered.
The most frequent result in any soccer match is a win for the home team. Playing at home is a significant advantage which results in about 50% of matches being won by the home side. Away wins are not rare but they contribute to the lowest percentage of results across the full spectrum of leagues and matches.
Accumulator or parlay soccer bets also account for a significant amount of turnover. There are no restrictions on the number of teams in an accumulator but in the past British bookmakers in particular have specified a minimum number of home wins or away wins in a multiple bet. Singles are now accepted on all soccer matches and that is a huge change from rules that were applied in the past.
Handicap markets make some appeal in matches that have a strong favourite. In effect a handicap is a head start for an underdog. If the favourite is -500 to win a match they might have to better a handicap of 2.5 goals to cover the spread. Half goal numbers are applied to prevent the tie and push.
Asian Handicaps are so named because they initially became prevalent in that part of the world. The point of an Asian Handicap is to make the potential outcomes have the same probability which will then attract balanced money for each option. The bookmaker then has no preference as the juice will ensure profitability regardless of the result.
Ties are possible with Asian Handicaps and stakes are refunded so nobody wins or loses. There is a direct link between the money line price for a soccer match and the handicap. Soccer is no different to all other sports in this respect and any handicap will be introduced to balance betting turnover on the available outcomes.
Across all leagues and countries the average number of goals in a 90 minute soccer match is about 2.4. There are variances across the world and some leagues historically produce more than the average but the mean tally is not reached in other leagues so the average is maintained.
In Europe the Scandinavian leagues produce above average results and Holland is another country that sees more than the average number of goals. Conversely leagues in Ireland, Switzerland and Singapore are relatively low scoring.
Goals markets are generally expressed in half goals so a tie is not possible. A typical market would be Over/Under 2.5 goals. If there are less than three goals the result is Under and if there are more than two goals the result is Over.
It is possible to bet on a range of total goals markets from 0.5 up to 8.5. The odds are different for each number and they are based on overall league statistics and the specific scoring records of each team
Futures Soccer Betting
In Europe futures betting is known as ante post betting. This involves betting on an outcome of an event that will take place over a period of time and not completed on an immediate date. It is possible to bet on the winner of the NFL Super Bowl even though bets will not be settled until the final at the start of the year.
The World Cup in soccer generates a great deal of futures betting. The best 32 soccer teams in the world meet in one country once every four years and compete to determine the world champions. Bookmakers have been taking bets for the past two years on who will win the 2014 World Cup in Rio.
The Champions League is the most lucrative and sought after tournament in club football. Teams from leagues in Europe qualify on the basis of their league position in the previous year. The competition is dominated by the major clubs from England, Spain and Germany. The sporting press publish updated futures prices and betting interest is huge.
After each league match or group stage result futures prices fluctuate to take into account teams in form or those that are not performing to expectations. At any one time the major bookmakers offer about twenty soccer futures markets and this area of the industry is highly competitive due to the number of different ways to bet on ante post markets.
Best Soccer Betting Sites
Bovada.lv, previously named Bodog, is available to US bettors only. Its range of soccer betting markets is extensive and the profit margins are competitive. This sportsbook offers a wide variety of matches and markets for in-running betting and prices are updated quickly and effectively after a significant event in a match. Decent sized soccer bets can be placed with this company.
BetOnline.ag has been operating in this sector for over 20 years and soccer is a strong element of its service. The company is well known for taking very little juice from its wagers. There is an attractive loyalty bonus scheme on offer with prizes awarded dependent on the amount staked. All odds are presented in American format. Overnight lines and live odds are offered.
Topbet.eu is aimed at the US market with an extensive selection of markets for North American sports. However, the company’s coverage of European soccer is impressive with odds available for the main European leagues. The futures section includes odds for the major leagues and competitions in world soccer.
Soccer Betting Strategy
The most popular soccer betting market is the 1X2 whereby gamblers bet on the outcome of a match. However, there are more sophisticated markets and strategies for betting on the sport and the leading online soccer bookmakers offer a range of markets for a wide selection of leagues.
Exchange betting is a relatively new concept but it has given rise to traders and arbitragers who take advantage of differences in odds at which to back and lay in order to guarantee a profit. Betfair control 90% of this market which is a massive growth area in the field of online betting.
All the major online bookmakers have a live betting service in which odds are updated as the match develops. The markets on offer increase substantially when a match is shown live on television.
The growth of the internet has increased the scope for betting on sport in general and soccer in particular. There seems to be no limit to the ingenuity of bookmakers as they try to attract customers by offering a wide selection of soccer markets. This development has led to a more sophisticated approach to betting on soccer.
At about the time of the 2002 World Cup in soccer Betfair was emerging as the market leaders in a new type of betting. Traditionally a soccer bettor would invest on the outcome of a match and once the bet was struck would have no recourse to benefiting from an advantageous position or minimising losses.
Exchange betting changed the approach to betting in that it allows a customer to place a bet or take a bet. The markets match backers and layers at a price that appeals to both sides of the market. Historically the bookmaker was always the layer but peer-to-peer betting allows customers to back their opinion that an event will not occur..
The back price is always marginally smaller than the lay price. The operator has no interest in the outcome of the match as profits are earned by charging commission on winning bets. Betfair and similar companies broker the bets and generally charge about 5% for providing this service.
When backing a team to win a soccer match an exchange bettor can close a bet if the match goes according to how predicted. When a team scores a goal the price for them to win a match shortens considerably. A customer can then lay a bet at much reduced odds and will then have a winning bet regardless of the final score of the match.
A parlay is a bet that links several matches or events and soccer provides many opportunities for this form of betting. Odds are accumulated so profits can be substantial but each element of the bet has to win to guarantee a return.
At the start of each season many customers place an accumulator bet on teams to win a number of leagues in one country or across different countries. This is a very popular bet in the United Kingdom where there are four main professional leagues in England in addition to several in Scotland and many non-professional leagues.
Bookmakers promote these opportunities as they are aware most accumulators will be losers. Several events have to each occur in order to make the bet a winning one. During the off-season teams buy and sell players and it is difficult to assess how a team will perform in light of new signings.
At the start of the 2012-13 season in England the favourites for each of the four main leagues were priced at +150 (6/4),+800 (8/1), +900 (9/1) and +600 (6/1). A winning parlay bet of one dollar on these four markets pays 1575 dollars at odds of 1574/1 so the appeal of this type of bet is obvious.
In economic theory arbitrage is the practice of taking advantage of a state of imbalance between two or more markets by making deals in those markets at the same time to exploit the imbalance. In betting terms arbing is when a bettor guarantees a risk-free position by backing a selection at high odds while laying it at lower odds elsewhere.
Soccer exchange betting provides a great deal of scope to take advantage of arb opportunities. This is due to the fact tat the sport is the most extensively covered by traditional online bookmakers and exchange operators. Betfair offers soccer betting on almost fifty countries and more than 200 leagues.
With such an array of matches covered the sport will provide most opportunities to take advantage of price differentials. The discrepancy might be minimal and profit margin small but many people around the world try to make a living from arbitraging.
It is now possible to buy software packages that constantly monitor the global soccer markets and highlight these risk-free opportunities. Gambling bots can now be used to place bets automatically and cancel any potential bets when the price differences quickly disappear as the market adjusts.
One of the massive growth areas in the field of online wagering has been live-betting and soccer in particular is a great medium for betting in-play. Operators such as bwin enjoyed tremendous growth on the back of an extensive menu of in-running opportunities.
Every major online operator, including those recommended to readers, has a live betting facility covering a wide variety of sports. Tennis, in particular, has become very popular for this type of betting but it is soccer that offers most markets.
Bookmakers will offer up to 200 in-running markets which are constantly updated as a match develops. Markets that involve significant events in a soccer match such as a goal, penalty or sending off, are amongst a few actively managed by Betfair. These markets are suspended to allow prices to adjust after an important event.
As odds are constantly changing live betting is a great way of trading on soccer. After backing a team to win a match a customer will be in an advantageous trading position if that team scores first. Conversely, a live bet can be closed at any time to minimise losses when the predicted outcome is unlikely to occur.
A point spread is a handicap placed on the favourite or a head start for the underdog. American sports in particular provide good opportunities for point spread betting but leading bookmakers aimed at the US market offer handicaps for soccer matches.
Point spreads can either be expressed in full goals or half goals. When a full goal is used all bets are void when the match is a tie after the handicap is applied. Half goal spreads make it impossible for a tie to take place and there are only two potential outcomes, a winning or losing bet.
One form of point spread betting is known as an Asian Handicap, due to the fact it was first introduced in that part of the world. This type of spread is designed to attract equal two-way business and equal probabilities which means the bookmaker will profit regardless of the outcome.