FIFA President Gianni Infantino made what many American sports fans will consider to be an outlandish statement at FIFA’s event announcing the North American host cities for the 2026 World Cup.
“By 2026 soccer or football will be the No. 1 sport in this part of the world,” he boldly predicted.
But what does the sports betting data suggest? How far does the beautiful game have to go to catch the major American sports, notably the NFL, in popularity at the betting window?
2022 World Cup Odds: Brazil the Favorite
Which Sports are Bet On Most in America?
Two of the nation’s largest online sportsbooks, FanDuel and BetMGM, provided TheLines with data on which sports are bet on most, in terms of handle (total dollars wagered).
Likely to nobody’s surprise, basketball and football are currently No. 1 and 2. Football has the highest handle per game and highest average bet amount placed. Basketball has a higher overall handle because there are more games on the schedule.
Top-Five Sports In United States By Betting Handle
Soccer Has long road to No. 1 By 2026 World Cup
Soccer handle at FanDuel and BetMGM has cracked the top five in the United States when including all global soccer betting markets. Soccer has also surpassed hockey.
However, it’s not just football and basketball it will have to pass in order to reach the No. 1 spot in the sports betting world by the 2026 World Cup. Baseball and tennis still garner more dollars in the legal sports betting market at both FanDuel and BetMGM than soccer does.
Could soccer get there and help make the FIFA president’s prediction come true? There’s certainly been massive growth in soccer in America, most recently evidenced by Apple paying MLS $2.5 billion for 10 years of exclusive streaming rights. Plus, a November survey by Ampere Analysis found 49% of sports fans in the U.S. like soccer. That ranked fourth behind football (70%), basketball (61%) and baseball (57%).
But rapid growth and becoming No. 1 are two very different things. And it would be a massive shocker for Infantino’s prediction to come true by the 2026 World Cup in North America.