Soccer Betting Basics: Choosing What to Bet On

There are several different soccer formats played in a variety of different countries all over the world. If you enjoy betting on soccer, then this is great news for you. You’ll never struggle to find something to bet on, as you’ll be able to find opportunities to get your money down in a favorite spot almost any day of the week.

It’s not just individual games you can bet on either. You can bet on which team is going to win a specific cup competition, or a specific league. You can bet on which teams are going to get relegated from their division, or which teams will qualify for continental competition. This is just a taste of the many available options.

Of course, it’s not realistic to bet on all the different soccer competitions. You’ll never stay up to date with everything you need to keep track of, even if you spend all day doing it. For the best chance of success, you’ll need to focus on a small number of competitions and try to learn as much as possible about them.

There are many reasons why soccer betting is so widespread, with one being that’s it’s quite simple to get started. With just a little bit of knowledge, it’s possible to have a good chance of making some money. There is, of course, a lot more to learn if you want to make consistent profits. This soccer betting guide can help. Both beginners and skilled bettors alike can find what they’re looking for here.

But which competitions should you focus on?

This is one of the rare soccer betting questions that we can’t really help you with, simply because there’s no right or wrong answer. If you’re already familiar with a particular competition, then it makes sense to focus on that one. But outside of that it’s essentially a matter of personal preference. If you want to bet on the most popular leagues, that’s what you should do. If you want to bet on obscure cup competitions, then give that a try. Most importantly, you must do the necessary research and analysis before putting any of your own money at risk.

We may not be able to give you an exact answer to that question, but we can provide you with everything you need to know about all your options, and that’s precisely what we’ve done below. We’ve also discussed the pros and cons of each option, and offered some useful advice where relevant. If you’re not sure what you should be betting on, this information will definitely help.

Major Domestic Leagues

The term domestic league refers to club level leagues that are played in a single country. Most of these leagues compete annually. They typically run for several months at a time, often spread across two calendar years. A league might start in August for example, and run until May of the following year.

Domestic leagues account for a lot of the interest in soccer. The major leagues especially are among the most watched and highest profile soccer competitions in the world. They feature some of the biggest and best-known clubs and players. There are several matches taking placing in these leagues each week, many of which are watched by millions of people.

So what constitutes a “major” domestic league? This is somewhat subjective really, as there’s no official list. The term is usually applied to the leagues which are the most popular, such as the English Premier League.

The English Premier League is the most popular soccer league in the world.

The English Premier League (EPL) is widely regarded as the most popular domestic league. It has been for some years now, but it’s closely followed by the Spanish La Liga. There are several other European leagues with worldwide followings too. Then there’s the American league. This has become more popular in recent years, thanks to an overall increase in the quality of players.

So if we were to compile a list of what we consider to be the major domestic leagues, it would start with the EPL and also feature the following leagues.




  • LIGUE 1

  • MLS

Please note that we’re not saying that other domestic leagues aren’t as important as the ones we’ve listed here. Please don’t be offended if your favorite league isn’t included. It’s just that these leagues have the most coverage on a global scale. We could easily have included other leagues too. There’s a case for the Australian A-League for example, or some of the South American leagues.

Having established a vague definition for the major domestic soccer leagues, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of betting on them.

Advantages of Major Domestic Leagues

Although there are no precise figures available, we think it’s safe to assume that the major domestic leagues account for a sizable percentage of all soccer betting activity. The simple fact that they are some of the most popular soccer competitions would surely back this assumption up. Plus, they offer several advantages to soccer bettors including the ones listed below.

  1. Attacking players in good form.
  2. Set piece specialists.
  3. Defenders who like to get forward at set pieces.

As we mentioned earlier, these leagues receive the most coverage. For most games, you’ll be able to watch them in their entirety on TV. For the others, you’ll be able to watch their highlights. This will not only help you gain insight into the overall quality of the teams but to the overall quality of the individual players as well. This insight will help you make educated betting decisions, especially if you’re able to properly analyze them and draw conclusions from what you see.

There’s also a wealth of information and statistics available on the major domestic leagues. Again, this is useful for assessing the quality of teams and players. The more data you’re able to research and analyze, the better you’ll be able to make informed judgements about probable outcomes. This in turn will make it easier to find value in the betting markets, which should lead to greater projects.

Of course, this assumes that you know what to look for and how to analyze it. You might want to take a look at our article on important soccer betting factors for some help with this. Additional information is always valuable when it comes to sports betting, but you do need to know how to utilize it effectively.

The final advantage to mention here is the betting options available. The popularity of these major domestic leagues means that most bookmakers and betting sites offer a wider variety of related betting markets. Trust us when we say that this is a good thing; more options equal more opportunities to find good wagers to place.

Disadvantages of Major Domestic Leagues

There aren’t really any significant disadvantages to betting on the major domestic leagues. Although you do have to consider that the popularity of these competitions means the bookmakers and betting sites take in a lot of wagers on them. They work diligently to ensure that the odds and lines they set are very tight, which makes it very hard to find value. You have to really know what you’re doing to make regular and consistent profits.

The only other disadvantage to mention is the unpredictable nature of these leagues. Any soccer competition is unpredictable to some extent, but games in the major domestic leagues are especially hard to call. Although the better teams do tend to win more often than not, they are still susceptible to the occasional upset. So there are few, if any, games that are genuinely easy to predict.

Predicting the winner of these leagues can be a challenge too. While some of the leagues have one or two dominant teams that are expected to compete for the title, there’s still no guarantee who’ll actually be crowned champions. A “lesser” team could easily come out of nowhere and win the whole league.

Take Leicester, for example, in the English Premier League. They narrowly avoided relegation in 2015 and were tipped to be among the bottom clubs the following season. Then they went and finished top of the league, in one of the biggest soccer upsets ever.

So, all things considered, betting on the major domestic leagues is a challenge. Making money from sports betting is NEVER easy though, so don’t let this discourage you.

Other Domestic Leagues

The leagues discussed above only represent a fraction of all the domestic leagues around the world. We would go as far as to say that most countries offer some sort of soccer league. Although these leagues aren’t as popular as the major ones already mentioned, they still tend to have a loyal following. Since most of them are covered by bookmakers and betting sites, there’s even more betting opportunities to look forward to.

Here are some other soccer leagues from around the world.

  • Primeira Liga
  • Dutch Eredivisie
  • A-League
  • J-League
  • Chinese Super League
  • Liga MX
  • Primeira Division
  • Campeonato Brasilero
  • Jupiler Pro League
  • Superleague Greece
  • Russian Premier League
  • Scottish Premiership

Even now, we haven’t listed them all. We feel it’s also important to point out that some nations have “lower tier leagues.” In England, for example, you have the Championship, League 1 and League 2. In Italy there is Serie B, and in Spain there is the Segunda Division. We’ve never calculated just how many leagues there are in total, but it’s safe to say that there’s a lot.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of betting on these lower profile leagues.

Advantages & Disadvantages

The main advantage of these leagues is that it’s easier to find value in the betting markets. Bookmakers take a lot less wagers on them, so they don’t give them quite the same amount of attention. They’ll typically hire several experts on the major leagues to help set the odds and lines, but they may not employ any for the smaller leagues. This means their odds and lines aren’t quite so tight. If you know these leagues well, you’ll probably know more than the bookmakers. That puts you in a very strong position to make some money.

Another advantage is also linked to the fact that less people bet on these leagues. With the most popular leagues, any value in the betting markets is usually snapped up very quickly. As soon as a good wager is available, there are plenty of smart bettors who will get their money down as soon as they can. The bookmakers then adjust their odds accordingly, and the value soon disappears. This happens far less frequently with the lower profile leagues.

The two big disadvantages of betting on these leagues are that it’s not as easy to find coverage of the games and there isn’t as much readily accessible data. While this isn’t ideal, it just means that you’ll have to work a little harder on research and analysis.

Club Cup Competitions

Most countries have domestic cup competitions as well as league competitions. These are knockout contests that take place throughout the course of a regular season. They typically involve teams from all the leagues within a single country, although that’s not always the case. Some countries have cup competitions that are exclusively for teams from a specific league.

Here are a few examples of the biggest and best-known domestic cup competitions, all of which are covered by most bookmakers and betting sites.

  • The FA Cup
  • The League Cup
  • Copa del Rey
  • Supercopa de Espana
  • DFB-Pokal
  • Coppa Italia

It’s hard to predict the winner of a cup competition, so we wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of time on it. The individual games often present some excellent betting opportunities though. Cup games are relatively easy to predict. Although you’ll have to take lower odds, these can still be very profitable wagers in the long run. You just need to be selective about which ones you bet on.

Cup games present excellent opportunities for predicting upsets. Since surprise results are so common, it’s possible to find spots that offer real value in backing an underdog. As long as you’re willing to be selective and wait for those opportunities to come up, you’ll definitely stand a good chance of making some money.

Not all club competitions are played at a domestic level, as there are some continental cup competitions too. These are usually contested by the top teams from each country within the relevant continent. The most well known examples are the Champion’s League and the Europa League of Europe.

The UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa league are major soccer competitions.

The same basic principles apply to betting on these competitions. There are often games that are quite easy to predict, providing regular opportunities for backing the underdog. So it’s worth paying attention to these competitions and trying to find good spots to place your wagers.

WARNING: be careful about betting on games involving teams that you’re not familiar with. Don’t automatically assume that a team from an obscure league is going to be easily beaten by a team from a higher profile league. It’s just not that simple.

International Qualifiers & Tournaments

All the competitions we’ve discussed so far involve club teams. As you’re almost certainly aware, soccer is also played at international level. Games and competitions involving international teams present even more betting opportunities for the smart soccer bettor. It’s still important to remain cautious though, as you’ll soon understand.

First let’s take a look at some of the international tournaments you can bet on. We’ll start with the biggest one: the FIFA World Cup.

The FIFA World cup is the biggest international soccer tournament.

The soccer World Cup is played every four years. It features 32 international teams from countries all over the world, each of which has to go through a qualifying process. This process typically involves competing in a mini-league of five or six teams over a two-year period, with the top teams making it through to the main tournament.

These mini-leagues are referred to as the qualifying groups. Some of these groups can be very competitive, containing evenly matched teams with a high chance of qualifying. In other mini-leagues there’s a big disparity in the relative quality of the teams involved. This is one reason why you need to be careful when betting on qualifying games.

Games between evenly matched teams are obviously hard to call, but you need to be wary of the mismatches too. They don’t always turn out as expected. There’s a lot of pride involved in playing for your country, and the so-called “weaker” teams often put in very strong performances despite the lack of quality in their lineup.

Remember: an international manager generally picks the best players from their nation, but this doesn’t always mean they’ll end up with a well-balanced and effective team. It’s quite possible for an international team to be packed full of talent and yet fail to perform. Remember that the players only play together a few times each year. They tend to play better with their teammates at club level because of the amount of time they spend with them.

All of these points apply whether betting on qualifying games or on games at the main tournament. They apply to all international tournaments too, not just the World Cup. We recommend looking at international qualifiers and tournaments for betting opportunities, as it’s certainly possible to find value. However, it’s still important to remember that you need to approach these differently than you would club games.

Here’s a list of some of the other major international qualifying tournaments.

  • FIFA Confederations Cup
  • UEFA European Championship
  • Africa Cup of Nations
  • CONCACAF Gold Cup
  • Copa America

We should point out the fact that some of these tournaments will feature teams and players that you’re not familiar with. This is a classic example of where it pays to be selective. It’s always tempting to bet on the big tournaments, but please don’t do so for the sake of it. If you don’t know much about the African teams, for example, then there’s little point in betting on the Africa Cup of Nations.

This article highlights just how many betting opportunities soccer presents. With all these options available, there’s no need to bet on anything you don’t know very much about. Always try to focus on the competitions that you’re most familiar with.

International Friendlies

We mentioned in the earlier section of this page how international teams don’t play that many games together. This is because international tournaments only take place every couple of years, and the qualifying games are spread out over long periods of time. It’s not like club soccer where the players are training together on a daily basis and playing together once or twice a week.

That’s why it’s difficult for teams to make the most out of the talent available to them. To help teams out, there are usually a few weeks set aside each year for international teams to get together and play non-competitive games called friendlies. This gives them extra time to play together and get familiar with each other’s playing styles. It also gives managers the opportunity to assess the players available to them.

Although most betting sites and bookmakers offer betting markets on international friendlies, we’re not going to go into much detail about them here. This is for one simple reason.

International friendlies DON’T typically represent good betting opportunities.

Non-competitive games are notoriously difficult to predict. Even when a team is significantly stronger than their opposition. There’s just no guarantee that they’re going to play to the best of their ability. It’s hard for top players to get motivated in what are essentially meaningless games. International soccer managers also tend to use these friendlies to experiment with different tactics and even different personnel. This makes it even more challenging to assess what’s likely to happen.

We’re not saying you have to avoid betting on these games completely. What you choose to do is entirely up to you. If you do choose to bet on them, we just ask that you keep your stakes small and proceed with caution. It really is difficult to make informed judgments about how they’re going to turn out.

Novelty Soccer Betting Markets

Some bookmakers and betting sites open betting markets that aren’t directly related to individual games or competitions. Here are a couple examples:

  • Transfer related betting markets
  • Manager related betting markets

Betting on these markets involves some degree of guesswork. Teams and players get linked with transfer moves all the time in the media. There’s regular media discussion about which manager is going to be fired next, or which manager a team is going to play next. It’s hard to distinguish between what’s pure speculation and what’s somewhat based on fact. So, unless you have access to some insider knowledge, it’s difficult to make informed judgments. We generally recommend ignoring these soccer-betting markets, unless betting just for fun.

With that being said, these markets can represent good value on occasion. How is that possible? It’s simple really!

These markets are usually very small, and just a few wagers can shift the odds significantly.

Because the odds move in such correlation to the weight of money, they very often don’t reflect the true probability of something happening (or not happening). Just knowing this fact can help you determine when to bet on these markets, and when to avoid them.

For example, let’s say there’s a team struggling at the bottom of the league. They’re in the middle of a really poor run of results, and there’s no obvious sign that they’re going to turn things around. This would likely lead to speculation in the media that the manager is at risk of losing his job. This speculation would in turn lead to lots of people betting on him to be the next manager fired. (Yes, bookmakers really do offer markets on this, however distasteful it might seem).

With so many people placing the same wagers, the odds would quickly fall. Any value that was in that market would now be obsolete. Knowing that the odds are only so low because of how many people have bet on this manager to be fired, you sensibly decide to avoid making a bet.

Now, at the same time as all this is going on there’s a top team that’s fallen a little behind in the race for the title. They often get good results, but not often enough to keep up with the league winners. After doing some research, you realize that the owner of this team has a history of firing managers as soon as missing out on the league title becomes inevitable for them. Since the majority of bettors don’t think this manager will be fired next , the odds are quite high. This is a great example of how speculative wagers can present value.

Obviously, this example was very specific and it won’t happen very often. We’ve just used it to highlight the basic principle. Avoiding novelty markets is generally a wise decision, but every now and then some value can be found there. ALWAYS try to take advantage of value, no matter what you’re betting on.


The number of betting opportunities that soccer presents is one reason why this is such a great sport to bet on. There are lots of matches taking place each year, across several competitions. This means the opportunities for finding good spots to get your money down are seemingly endless.

However, please keep in mind that it’s not realistic to keep up to date with ALL the teams taking part in ALL the competitions. Unless you have a lot of available time, you simply won’t be able to do the necessary research and analysis. Chances are you’ll get better results from your betting in the long run if you pick just a small number of leagues and competitions to focus your attention on.

As a final note, knowing which type of wagers to place is just as important as knowing which competitions to bet on. If you’re not familiar with all the available options, we suggest reading our article on the different types of soccer bets.