Strategy for Betting On Total Goals in Soccer

Betting on total goals is one of our favorite ways to bet on soccer games. The total goals wager is very simple, and represents a great alternative to trying to predict which team will win a match. It’s also one of the easier soccer wagers to win money from. Hence, why it’s so popular among bettors.

However, most soccer bettors DON’T win money from this wager: not consistently anyway. The downside of it being so simple is that lots of people just pick games at random and then basically guess how many goals are going to be scored. They mostly just follow their instincts, and maybe take a cursory look at some relevant factors. This just simply doesn’t work!

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this approach if you’re only betting for fun. It’s not the way to make consistent profits from betting on total goals though. It is possible to win money with these wagers, with the right approach. As with any other soccer wager, you need to research and analyze a range of important factors. You also need to pick your spots carefully, and only bet for the right reasons.

Reading this article will help you to make money from betting on total goals in soccer games. We can’t give you a perfect system to follow, but we have provided you with some very useful tips. If you take all of our advice and apply it to your betting, then there’s every chance you’ll have some success. Before we get to that, though, let’s make sure that you fully understand how these wagers work.

We start this article with an explanation of the most common total goals wager: the over/under. Then we look at some of the different variations. The strategy and advice comes after that.

Over/Under Total Goals

All totals goals wagers are straightforward. The over/under is the simplest of them all though. All we have to do here is predict whether the total number of goals scored by both teams in an upcoming match will be over or under a specified number. So it’s basically a 50/50 proposition. The bookmakers specify the relevant number, and we have to decide whether we think more or less goals will be scored.

The “standard” line for the over/under is typically 2.5 goals. This is because that’s roughly the average number of goals across all soccer games. Also, by using “half a goal” in the line, a wager can’t end in a tie. Clearly a soccer game can’t feature exactly 2.5 goals, so a wager must always win or lose.

Here’s an example of a total goals betting market for an upcoming game.

Liverpool vs Chelsea
Total Goals – Over/Under
Over 2.5
Under 2.5

As you can see, the line has been set at the standard 2.5 goals here. So we’d bet the over if we expect this game to feature three or more goals. We’d bet the under if we expect it to feature two or less.

You might notice that there’s quite a significant difference between the two sets of odds in this particular market. Although this is quite common, it isn’t always the case. The two sets of odds will often be a lot closer together, or even exactly the same. It basically depends on the outlook of the relevant bookmaker or betting site. Here, it appears that the bookmaker isn’t expecting a high scoring game. They’ve made the odds shorter for the under because they feel that’s the most likely outcome.

We’ve told you that the standard line for over/under goals totals is 2.5. That’s the line you’ll see most often, but lots of betting sites over a choice of lines these days. For example, one betting site has the following market for the same game described above.

Liverpool vs Chelsea
Total Goals – Over/Under
Over 0.5 1.071
Under 0.5 8.00
Over 1.5 1.40
Under 1.5 2.90
Over 2.5 2.20
Under 2.5 1.65
Over 3.5 4.00
Under 3.5 1.222
Over 4.5 8.00
Under 4.5 1.071

We prefer to bet where there’s a choice of totals to bet on. It gives us a greater chance of finding a line that we like, and also allows us to manage our risk versus reward ratio. To illustrate this, let’s take a closer look at this game between Liverpool and Chelsea.

We’re reasonably confident that the game is going to feature at least three goals. Both teams have good attacking players, but neither team has an overly impressive offense. So the obvious thing to do is to bet over 2.5 goals at odds of 2.20. However, we’ve got the option of playing it a little safer if we want. We could go for over 1.5 goals at odds of 1.40 instead. Now we only need two goals to be scored to win our wager. This is a perfect example of balancing our risk and reward ratio.

The potential return is lower, but we have a greater chance of winning.

Of course, we can adjust the ratio the other way too. Instead of playing it safe, we can decide to take a bigger risk and bet on over 3.5 goals. This means we need four goals to win, which is a little less likely but not inconceivable by any means. Plus, the odds of 4.00 probably just about represent value. So we could make a case for this wager for sure.

Now the potential return is higher, but we’ve reduced our chances of winning.

This illustration serves to highlight what we consider one of the big advantages of betting over/under total goals. For any given game, it’s easy to choose how much risk we want to take. We can go safe if want, and accept a smaller return. Or we can go for a bigger return, in exchange for a little more risk. We can even spread our risk if we want. We could play it safe with half our stake, and take the bigger risk with our outer half. This kind of choice is, unfortunately, not available with most soccer wagers.

Alternative Types of Total Goals Wagers

The over/under is the most popular variation of the total goals wager. It’s offered by all bookmakers and betting sites, and it’s probably the one you should concentrate on. However, there are some alternative variations that you might want to take into consideration. These are as follows.

  • Number of Goals Brackets
  • Exact Number of Goals
  • Total Goals by Team
  • Total Goals by Half

These variations are just as straightforward as the over/under variation really, and pretty self-explanatory. Let’s take a look at each one in detail though.

Number of Goals Brackets

With this variation you’re betting on the exact range of goals to be scored. Bookmakers and betting sites typically offer a range of different brackets, and you have to pick which bracket you think the total number of goals will fall into. Continuing with the same game as before, here’s an example of how the brackets and associated odds can look.

Liverpool vs Chelsea
Total Goals – Brackets
0-1 2.90
2-3 2.00
0-2 1.615
3-4 2.818
0-3 1.222
5+ 9.00

If we backed the 0-1 bracket here, we’d win if the game was goalless or featured just a single goal. We’d lose if there was more than one goal scored. If we backed the 2-3 bracket, we’d win if the total number of goals scored was either two or three. Less than two, or more than three, and we lose. The same principle applies to each bracket.

This variation basically requires us to be more precise in our predictions. In exchange for needing greater accuracy, we can benefit from higher potential payouts.

Exact Number of Goals

We need to be even more precise with this variation. Here we need to predict the exact number of goals scored in the game, just as the name suggests. This is how the exact number of goals market looks for the Liverpool versus Chelsea game.

Liverpool vs Chelsea
Total Goals – Exact Number
0 8.50
3 4.333
1 4.00
4 6.50
2 3.30
5 13.00

It’s obviously a lot harder to win when using this variation of the totals goal wager. That’s reflected in the odds though, as they’re typically a lot higher in these markets. Correctly predicting the exact number of goals can lead to some very attractive payouts.

Total Goals by Team

This variation of the total goals wager is based on the number of goals scored by a specific team. So it doesn’t matter how many the opponents score. You’re just considering the total for one team or the other. This variation is typically offered by bookmakers in the over/under style, but it can be offered in the brackets or exact numbers style too.

Total Goals by Half

This variation is back to being based on the total number of goals being scored by both teams. Instead of betting on the total for the whole game, however, you’re betting on the total for a specific half. So you can bet on the total number of goals in the first half, or the total number of goals in the second half.

We really don’t recommend paying much attention to this variation. It’s hard enough to accurately predict how many goals are likely to be scored across the full 90 minutes. Trying to break that down into how many will be scored in a specific half is even tougher. The odds are higher as a result, but that’s not a good enough reason to use this variation in our opinion.

We feel the same about betting on totals by team for that matter, or betting on the exact number of goals. We just don’t see the point in trying to chase the bigger payouts here. Soccer games are too unpredictable, and exposing yourself to more risk than necessary is simply not the right approach.

We recommend focusing on over/under wagers.

At a push you could consider the number of goals brackets. But, again, we don’t really see the point. Remember that you can always manage your risk versus reward ratio when betting the over/under lines. So you’ve still got the option of going after the bigger payouts if that’s what you really want. Most importantly, though, you have the option to balance your risk to reward ratio.

Strategy & Advice for Betting Total Goals

There’s no strategy for betting total goals that’s guaranteed to work. Please take our word for this, as we’re well aware that there are some people who claim otherwise. Generally speaking, these are the people that are trying to get money out of you. They’ll try to sell you a system, or get you to subscribe to a service that tells you what to bet on and when. And we can all but promise you that you’ll be wasting your money.

So please ignore the idea of trying to find a perfect system for these wagers. No perfect system exists. It’s much better to focus your efforts on analyzing games, assessing the teams involved and trying to find good opportunities for getting your money down. You’ll stand every chance of success with this approach, especially if you follow the tips below.

  • Don’t bet on every game
  • Avoid certain types of game
  • Balance your risk
  • Consider small multiples
  • Always do your homework
  • Study other leagues

These tips are straightforward for the most part. Good soccer betting strategy doesn’t always have to complicated. Total goals wagers are simple, so it’s only logical that the best advice for betting on them effectively should be simple too. And despite their simplicity, these tips WILL help you get better results.

Don’t bet on every game

We offer this particular piece of advice, or something very similar, throughout our website. Do you know why? It’s because it’s very important! You can’t make money from betting on ANY sport unless you’re selective. Successful sports betting is all about getting money down in the right spots. It’s not about placing as many wagers as possible and hoping to win enough of them to make a profit. Quality is what matters, not quantity.

So when you’re looking at the weekend’s games, don’t feel like you’ve got to put a total goals wager on each one. You really don’t. The goal here (excuse the pun) is to highlight the games where you think you can make good predictions. If you can’t find a good reason to bet on a game, then don’t. Betting for the sake of it will only cost you money in the long run.

Avoid certain games

There are certain games that we recommend avoiding for the purposes of betting on total goals. This is because they are typically too hard to call, so you’re better off saving your time and money and looking at other opportunities. The games we’re referring are described below, for your convenience.

  • Games between very closely matched teams
  • Games expected to be one-sided
  • Games where both teams might settle for a draw

Games between very closely matched teams are always difficult to predict. We can’t really be sure how the relevant teams are going to approach them. Take a game between two top teams that are both competing for the title for example. One, or both, of the teams in such a game might go all out to win, wanting to make a real statement in the race for the title. This means lots of goals is a STRONG possibility, but it’s equally likely that the teams could decide to play cautiously, focusing on not losing rather than trying to win. That could lead to a game with very few goals, if any. With so much uncertainty, games like this are best avoided.

There’s also a lot of uncertainty in games that are expected to be one-sided. We might be pretty sure which team will win the match, but we can’t be at all sure how many goals will be scored. The stronger team might really go for it, and try to score as many goals as possible, or they might take a more pragmatic approach. Once they get a goal or two, they could slow down and just protect their lead. They may not even get any goals if their opposition decide to focus on defense. So, again, it’s best to avoid these types of games.

You might think that games where both teams will settle for a draw are good spots for betting on a low total. That’s not necessarily the case though. Yes, there’s a good chance that the two teams will play out a goalless draw, but there’s also the chance that one or both of the teams don’t actually have any intention of settling for a draw. We can’t ever predict for sure how each team is likely to approach such a game, so once again there’s too much uncertainty.

There’s always uncertainty when betting of course. So you might think we’re being a little too cautious. There’s a reason for this though. There are LOTS of soccer games you can bet on. And many of these games are perfect for placing a total goals wager. There are often really good reasons for going with either the under or the over. So why bother with the games that are so much harder to call? Exactly. There’s just no point when there are easier options.

Balance your risk

We already covered this earlier. We mentioned how over/under wagers are great for balancing the risk versus reward ratio. You should really take advantage of this in our opinion, and try to strike a good balance that suits your own personal attitude towards risk. There’s no right or wrong here, as how much risk you choose to take is entirely down to you. However, we would like to make one point.

A greater chance of winning paired with smaller odds is usually better than a reduced chance of winning paired with higher odds.

This is a principle we almost always stick to in all of our betting. We do take big risks on occasion, as sometimes there are good reasons to do so. As a general rule, though, there’s a lot to be said for the cautious approach. Not so cautious that you never take any kind of risk at all, but just cautious enough to avoid risks that are unnecessary. We firmly believe that this is the best route to long term success.

Consider small multiples

This tip goes against the advice we’ve just given, but we’re not deliberately trying to contradict ourselves. The fact is that there are very few definitive rules when it comes to sports betting, and this is one example of where it’s right to go against conventional wisdom.

We really like betting small multiples with total goals wagers. This is a risky strategy, but it’s one that worked well for us, and we only use small stakes for these wagers anyway. We recommend you do the same if you decide to implement this strategy yourself.

The strategy simply involves putting two or more total goals selections into an accumulator, or parlay. This can result in some nice payouts if they all prove to be correct. The downside, of course, is that just one wrong selection means the whole accumulator loses. So, it’s a good idea to only include selections that you’re very confident about. You should also keep the number of selections quite low. We think three is about optimal, and we sometimes only include two. If we’re really confident we might include four, but we never go with any more than that.

Always do your homework

This should be a given really, but we’re going to mention it anyway. As we stated right at the start of this article, most bettors approach total goals in the wrong way. They don’t put in the required effort, and they don’t make money as a result. We would feel awful if you chose to make the same mistake.

It’s easy to make instant judgements about the number of goals you expect to be scored in a game, but you can’t trust judgements that are made without proper assessment: not even if you follow soccer closely and really know your stuff. You still need to put some thought into your selections. This should start with assessing the teams involved in a game, and looking at the following factors.

  • Quality of attack
  • Quality of defense
  • Current form

This is the absolute minimum you should do. Considering these factors is the only way to form a solid opinion about how many goals are likely to be scored. Ideally, you should also consider some situational factors too, such as the following.

  • Motivation
  • Playing style
  • Weather

This list was not at all exhaustive. There are also other factors that can affect the number of goals scored in a game of soccer. These ones mentioned have the most impact, so please make sure you consider these at least. If you want to consider even more, that’s obviously a good thing too.

Study Other Leagues

We usually advise focusing on just one or two leagues when betting on soccer. This makes it easier to do all the necessary research and analysis. It’s not that difficult to follow a couple of leagues closely and learn everything you need to know. Trying to become on expert on several different leagues, however, is a very challenging task.

We suggest deviating from this advice a little when it comes to betting on total goals though. There are certain leagues where the number of goals scored in games is more predictable than others. This makes it easier to find good opportunities. So it’s worth a spending extra time studying a few different leagues just for the purposes of betting on total goals. You might just find some great spots to get your money down.


We strongly recommend betting on total goals as part of your overall soccer betting approach. It’s one of the easier ways to show some profit. There are no guarantees of course, but there’s a strong chance of making money from total goals wagers if you know what you’re doing. Following the tips and advice on this page will certainly help.

Above all else, please remember that you don’t have to bet on every game. It pays to be selective, so try to pick the right spots for getting your money on. Put careful consideration into your selections, and only bet when you identify REAL value. You’ll greatly improve your chances of success this way.