A Beginner’s Guide to Betting on Soccer

Learn the basics of betting on soccer, including an explanation of the bet types, as well as tips and strategies to make you a smarter bettor.

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2023 8:03 AM ET Read Time: 6 min
Christian Pulisic (10) tries to pump up the fans before a corner kick against El Salvador in the second half of their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio. Syndication The Columbus Dispatch
Photo By - USA Today

Soccer is the world's most popular sport, so it makes sense that it's also the biggest sports gaming market. As the sport's popularity grows in North America, it's beginning to draw the same amount of action and attention here as it does in Europe.

With the Premier League and MLS in full swing, it's a fun time to get involved in soccer betting. 

Soccer betting lines explained 

To understand soccer betting lines, you need to understand soccer and the essential workings of the sport. Generally, soccer is a low-scoring sport played over 90 minutes (two 45-minute halves).

Soccer matches, unlike most other sports, do not always provide a zero-sum result. In a regulation match, you can have a winner, a loser, or a draw when the two teams tie.

Most soccer matches are limited to that regulation time, along with added "stoppage time" calculated by the officials throughout the match. Because of this, most soccer betting lines are designated and graded on the 90-minute regulation time result.

Some matches, however, are "knockout matches" where teams are eliminated via a result. In those instances, the teams play two 15-minute halves of "extra time" as the result of a draw. The teams decide the match by penalty kicks (shootout) if necessary.

Soccer moneylines

The moneyline is the most basic way to bet on any sport. It simply asks you to pick a winner, designating a set of odds for each side based on their implied probability of winning the game. 

However, because soccer is a low-scoring game and can end in a tie after 90 minutes of play, the three-way moneyline is the preferred method of betting on soccer odds.

3-way soccer moneylines

The three-way moneyline allows soccer bettors to wager on the match's final result, including a win for either side or a draw after regulation time. This line features a 1X2 format in which you have a win for Team 1, a draw, and a win for Team 2. 

The oddsmakers designate each team with the odds to win based on how the two teams match up, the probability of a side winning, and the odds of them being tied after 90 minutes. 

Result Odds
USA USA +145
Draw +195
Wales Wales +190

In the above example, the odds favor the U.S at +145 to win against the underdog Wales at +190. At the same time, the odds of a draw are the longest at +195. This means that the oddsmakers view the United States as a slight favorite and also view a draw as being less likely than one of the two sides winning outright.

When a team is favored more strongly, they usually feature minus odds, with the Draw being the second-favorite and the underdog being a longshot. 

Result Odds
Belgium Belgium -350
Draw +390
Canada Canada +800

In the above example, Belgium is heavily favored to win the match and thus requires quite a bit of juice to profit from the wager. As such, Canada pays quite a bit more than both Belgium and the Draw, as it is the least likely outcome, and the draw pays in the middle.

The three-way moneyline is available for the full-time result and the half-time result. Most matches will have a three-way half-time line, and the prices tend to favor the draw more than a side, given there is even less time to score a goal for either team. Some books will even offer a second-half three-way moneyline, with only the result of the second 45 minutes coming into play.

2-way soccer moneylines 

The two-way moneyline in soccer betting removes the draw option from the equation and adjusts the odds on either side to reflect the likelihood of a win versus a loss. A win on either side would pay out to those who wagered on it, while a draw would cancel all bets and return the stakes to the bettors. 

Most sites list this as a "draw no bet" action. It is trendy in tournament or knockout play as it covers the entirety of a match–not just regulation. However, it's important to note the rules for each book for the "draw no bet" line, as some will grade it after regulation as a "push" or "no action" if the score is tied. In that instance, the sportsbook returns your original stake.

Typically for a knockout or tournament match where a winner is required, the two-way moneyline will be listed as a bet to "qualify" or "advance."

These lines will also feature a Team 1 versus Team 2 betting line, with the draw not included in the odds calculation.

Team Odds
USA USA -135
Wales Wales +105

In the above example, oddsmakers favor the United States at -135, with Wales being the underdog at +110. Were the U.S. to win 2-1 in regulation, then wagers on the Americans would be graded winners, with Wales bets graded as losses. 

However, should the match end in a 1-1 draw, then the "no bet" portion of the two-way moneyline would come into effect. The sportsbook would return all stakes to the bettors with the bet graded as "no action" due to the tie. 

Like the three-way moneyline, most matches will offer a two-way moneyline for the first half. As with the half-time three-way moneyline, only the first 45 minutes factor into the bet result.

Soccer double chance lines

Double chance lines allow you to protect against the three-way moneyline, much like the draw no bet does. However, rather than removing Draw, double chance lets you place a wager on two of the three outcomes simultaneously. The benefit is placing a wager on a winning or drawing team without having to take twice the risk by betting on both outcomes individually.

Team Odds
BelgiumBelgium and Draw -135
Canada Canada and Daw +105
Belgium Belgium and Canada Canada -600

In the above example, the odds favor Belgium; therefore, the two options, including them, are incredibly high priced. However, you can place a $100 wager on Canada to either win or get a draw, and any result aside from a defeat would return you $230.

Double chance bets are an excellent way to play underdogs without the risk of getting hurt by picking the wrong option in the three-way moneyline. However, it provides no value when betting on the favorite, as it will typically cause the juice to be quite prohibitive. 

Soccer spreads

Another way to bet on soccer odds is the spread – also known as the point spread or handicap. Sportsbooks commonly set soccer spreads between 0.5 and 2 goals. Still, they can be wider depending on the competition between the two teams. As with any other sport, there will be a negative number–or laying goals--for the favored team, while the underdog will have a plus number–or getting goals.

For example, the favorite to win the match could have a spread of -1.5, meaning they would need to win the match by two or more goals to cover the spread. Conversely, the underdog would need to lose by one goal or fewer to cover–or win the match outright.

The price of placing the wager or the "juice" or vig accompanies each spread. Sometimes the price will be even or slightly different. Other times, if oddsmakers expect a team to be more likely to cover the spread than the other, the number will be much wider apart. 

Teams Spread Odds
Belgium Belgium -1.5 +109
Canada Canada +1.5 -119

In the example above, Belgium is +109, which means a $100 wager would pay $109 if they were to win by two or more goals. On the flip side, Canada is -119, meaning a $119 bet would pay $100 if they were to lose by one goal or fewer or win outright. 

Goal Line: Over/Under totals

The Over/Under total  known as the goal line in soccer – is like the total in most other sports like football or basketball. Quite simply, oddsmakers set a projected number of total goals for a match, and you place a wager on whether the combined final tally will go Over or Under that total.

Belgium Belgium and Canada Canada
Over 2.5 goals -138
Under 2.5 goals +110

In the example above, oddsmakers set the total at 2.5 goals–your standard total for most soccer matches. They priced the Over at -138, which means a wager of $138 would return you $100 profit if the combined goals scored a total of three or more. Conversely, the Under is priced at +110, so a $100 wager on the Under would return $110 if two or fewer goals are scored between the two teams.

Sportsbooks sometimes set totals at a higher number, such as 3.5. Still, they typically don't go lower than 2.5 in most matches. They also set totals for an individual team, called Team Totals. In addition, you can often wager on the total for a single half.

Soccer futures

Futures can be a fun, profitable way to turn your knowledge of the bigger picture into a large payday. Futures are long-running odds markets often decided before a season or tournament begins or updated after each matchday or round. Soccer futures odds change throughout a campaign or event, adjusting to results, injuries, trends, and betting action.

Bettors can place futures bets on a variety of different markets, including both team results and individual accolades. Common futures markets in soccer include winners of competitions, team relegation, and which individual player will score the most goals (or the Golden Boot winner).

The Euros and the World Cup typically offer these markets and many more. The tournament is set up with a group stage where two teams advance–one as the winner and the other as the second-place finisher. 

As such, many oddsmakers will offer lines for teams to win the group and another set of lines for teams to advance. Given that a team has more chance to advance than to win, the odds will usually carry more juice for the to-advance market than the to-win market. In addition, oddsmakers typically heavily juice the favorites, given the likelihood of moving on.

Team Odds to Qualify for 2022 World Cup Group F
Belgium Belgium -700
Croatia Croatia -220
Morocco Morocco +200
Canada Canada +270

Team Odds to Win Group F
Belgium Belgium -150
Croatia Croatia -+230
Morocco Morocco +850
Canada Canada +1100

In the above examples, Belgium is heavily favored to advance, with the juice prohibiting betting for them to make it out of the group. However, at -150, the price is much lower for them to win the group. 

The odds for each other team respectively increase as well. Just as you can bet on teams to qualify, futures markets for the World Cup odds typically also allow you to bet on who will fail to qualify.

In addition, you can go even further on most teams in the futures market. You can place bets on which round they will be eliminated, how many goals a team will score in the tournament, and how many points they will earn in the group stage. Finally, you can typically bet on a team at least reaching a specific tournament round, such as the quarter-finals or the semi-finals.

Soccer props

Soccer prop bets allow you to bet on specific events or statistics during a match. Examples include which players will score a goal, provide an assist, or how an individual team will take many corner kicks. Prop bets are a terrific way to get action on a match aside from the standard lines. They can often provide immense value to a savvy bettor with solid knowledge of the teams. Sportsbooks offer prop bets for individuals or teams. 

Tournaments like the World Cup or Champions League typically offer hundreds of prop bets per match, given the attention paid to the event. Bettors can even find extra prop markets for in-game events like the following:

  • Will a player get booked?
  • How many total cards will be shown in a match?
  • What type of goal will a player score (header, outside the box, and others)?
  • How many shots on goal will a player have?
USA USA vs Wales Wales Both Teams to Score
Yes +102
No -128

One of the most popular prop bets is the "both teams to score" market, where you bet on whether or not both teams will score in the match. A "no" bet in the U.S. vs. Wales match will pay $100 on a $128 bet if one or both teams fail to score, whereas a "yes" bet would pay $102 on a $100 bet if both teams found the back of the net.

Soccer derivative odds 

Derivative soccer odds allow you to bet on specific segments of the match, including the first or second half, the first 10 or 15 minutes, or the last 10 or 15 minutes. It can also be for specific time frames, such as the 31st through the 45th minute of the match.

Betting sites provide derivative odds for sides in a three-way moneyline, match or team totals, and props/specials for those designated periods. 

Time of First Goal Odds
USA USA First Half +125
USA USA Second Half +210
USA USA No Goals +195
Wales Wales First Half +140
Wales Wales Second Half +220
Wales Wales No Goals +160

In the above example, you can wager on when each team will score its first goal. If you believe the United States will score their first goal in the second half, you will play U.S. 2nd half, and a $100 wager would return you $210 if their first goal comes in the second half. Were Wales to score first, your bet would still be valid; you're betting on when a specific team will score first, not who will score first.  

Asian handicaps

Asian handicap is a more complex way to wager on soccer spreads and totals. Due to the low-scoring nature of the game, Asian handicap allows bettors to spread their wagers, or “split” them, across two different bets that utilize the fractions or whole numbers between the standard lines. These include handicaps of 0.25, 0.50, and 0.75 goals. Asian handicap lines can be geared toward the total of goals scored in a match or toward the spread.

Belgium Belgium and Canada Canada Asian Goal Total
Result Odds
Over 2.75 goals -110
Under 2.75 goals -101

Asian Spread Odds
Belgium Beglium -1.75 +129
Canada Canada +1.75 -166

In the above example, the Asian goal line of 2.75 is elevated above the 2.5 goals line we discussed in the Total section, where the over 2.5 was -138 odds. With the over 2.75 Asian goal line, you are splitting your wager in half. Half of the bet will be placed on the over 2.5 goals, with the other half being placed on over 3.0 goals. Should three goals be scored, you would win half of the bet and push the other half. Should more be scored, then both bets win, while fewer goals would see both wagers lose.

You can also bet Belgium -1.75 Asian spread or Canada +1.75 Asian spread, and the setup is the same. Half of your bet would be on the -1.5 and the other half on -2.0 for Belgium, or on +1.5 and +2.0 for Canada. 

In addition to the Asian spread or Asian handicap bets, some sports books will offer “alternative Asian spread” lines. These allow even more flexibility for bettors who have a solid grasp of a match and believe an outcome will be closer or larger than the oddsmakers anticipate. 

For example, if you believe that Belgium will not only cover the -1.5 spread against Canada but blow them out, you could play Belgium -2.5 at +245 odds or Belgium -2.75 at -325 odds. Just the same, if you feel Canada will keep things close, you could play Canada +0.5 at +210 odds.

How to read soccer odds 

Soccer odds come in many shapes and sizes but on this side of the pond, American odds will be the most common way how to read soccer odds. 

Looking at three-way moneylines for example, you could see the favorite set at -120 (risk $120 to win $100), the underdog at +360 (risk $100 to win $360), and the Draw at +240 (risk $100 to win $240).

Use our easy odds converter to help you read soccer odds.

Soccer betting strategies

Making money betting on soccer takes time, knowledge, and attention to detail. With these simple tips, you can get an edge on beating the books and making profit.

Know the rules of each wager

This is the number one mistake that many new soccer bettors make. Many books have different rules for different bets, and the wording can be tricky if you aren’t paying attention. For example, when you are betting on goal scorer props, you need to know which books will void a wager if the player doesn’t start versus which books will take action if he plays as little as a single minute. 

You also need to know the rules pertaining to extra time. While the three-way moneyline is typically graded after 90 minutes and doesn’t include extra time, many player props do. So if you bet on Harry Kane to score for England and his first goal of the match comes in the 110th minute, you’ll want to know whether that particular book is going to grade that as a win or not. 

Injuries and lineups

When it comes to soccer betting, this can be one of the biggest factors when it comes to line movement. Lineups typically come out about 60 to 90 minutes before kickoff, and they can drastically swing odds one way or another. This is especially true when it comes to player props such as goal scorers or total shots. 

If you want to get good closing line value on soccer markets, pay attention before the lineups come out. See what the manager says in his press conference. Know who is injured and who might be in line for rest or rotation. Look through past lineups for the manager to see what his tendencies are.

Tournaments like the World Cup, where matches come just a few days apart, often see players rotated and rested depending on what the team needs. This is particularly the case in the second and third match of the group stage. Knowing all the information you can will allow you to get the best odds possible on your wagers. 

Know the motivation of both teams

This is vitally important when betting on a tournament like the World Cup. Not every team is out to get a win. When Canada plays Belgium in the first match, they aren’t going to attack like they would in the third match against Morocco. That’s because Belgium is the more talented team and is expected to win the group, and it’s the first match of the group. 

If Canada were to steal a draw, they’re in a terrific position to advance. However, should they play open and lose 4-0, they would not only have lost but would be behind in goal differential to the rest of the group. For Belgium, they will be much more aggressive as they know they need to beat Belgium to get off to a strong start. 

Does a team need a win to avoid elimination? Will a draw allow a team to advance to the next round? Knowing the motivation for each team is vital to finding value and placing the best bet possible. 

Dig into the tactics

England struggles against teams that sit in a low block and defend. France is lethal on the counter-attack. Spain wants to keep as much possession as possible and use tiki taka passing to create opportunities. Brazil wants to get the ball to Neymar on the break and allow him to dictate the counter-attack.

If you see that a team is giving up goals on one side of the pitch more than the other, that’s important data. Look to see if their opponent has a fast, dynamic winger who could give them problems. If a team likes to sit back and defend and force shots from distance, then look at the corner total and try to find favorable odds. 

Soccer, maybe more than any other sport you will bet on, is all about tactics. Knowing how a team prefers to play, and what their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses are, is pivotal towards analyzing lines and finding value.

Shop around for the best price

This is true for any sport, but soccer in particular. It’s important to have multiple books and multiple betting lines at your disposal. For example, I love FanDuel because of their same-game parlay options–but they don’t offer Asian handicaps. DraftKings and bet365 do–but they don’t offer some of the favorable prices for player props that I get at FanDuel.

Always take a minute to look for which book might be lagging on line movement using the Covers odds tools, and compare player props and futures odds across books before locking in a play. A few seconds can mean the difference between a small profit and a big one. 

Soccer betting forum

Want to learn more about betting on soccer and meet a large, knowledgeable community? Check out Covers’ soccer betting forum to get picks, ask questions, and learn from experienced sports bettors.

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