Best Soccer Leagues to Bet on During Summer 2021
All the big European soccer leagues have drawn to a close, with surprise champions in several countries. Inter ended Juve’s dominance in Italy, Atletico Madrid got one over its city rivals Real in Spain, and even France has a new title winner in Lille.
As the players in those countries take some well-earned time off, where can we still get our soccer fix?
Even though FIFA has tended to favor leagues scheduled for autumn-winter seasons, there are some that buck that trend.
This is sometimes due to marketing and awareness issues, or sometimes simply due to taking the climate of a particular country into account.
None of the leagues profiled here would be considered to be as good as the likes of La Liga or the EPL, but standards have risen across the world with increased investment in recent years. They also offer soccer betting opportunities once the big leagues have ended.
So, here are five of the best summer soccer leagues to look out for when it comes to enjoyment and betting in 2021.
Sweden, like many Scandinavian and Baltic countries, made the move to spring/summer soccer a long time ago. The Allsvenskan switched in 1959 and has been one of the more successful leagues in the region.
With winter bringing shorter days and hardly any light in the far north, playing in the summer seems like an obvious choice.
Although there has not been as much success in recent years, Swedish clubs have made it to the finals of the big European competitions in the past.
The 2021 season kicked off in April and will run until the beginning of December. Malmo started as the reigning champions and is the favorite with 888Sport to win the league once again, as it reclaims its place at the top of the Swedish soccer tree.
The club currently sits at the top of the table with two Stockholm clubs, Djurgardens and AIK, just about keeping up.
With only one team qualifying for the Champions League, there can be a disparity in the amount the clubs can invest in players, which means any club that consistently finishes in first place, could grow at a faster rate than its rivals.
Malmo has now won five of the last ten championships and looks to continue its dominance.
Major League Soccer
This might be the most recognized league on this list. MLS has been trying to brand itself as a big player on the world stage for years. They have thrown off the tag of being just a home for washed up European players looking for a payday at the end of their careers.
MLS has begun to attract big names from CONCACAF and South American countries – and there have even been talks to combine with Mexico’s Liga MX.
For now, the best teams in the US and Canada compete in a league that follows North American protocol, finishes with playoffs, and a final game between conference winners to determine the champion.
Unsurprisingly, a team from one of the major cities (and media markets) is the most successful in the league’s 26-year history.
LA Galaxy has won five MLS Cups, but around half of the teams in the league have now won a championship.
The start of the 2021 season was pushed back a week due to the ongoing global pandemic, but eventually began in the middle of April, with the regular season finishing in November.
There will be three weeks of playoffs before the champions are crowned in mid-December.
Columbus Crew surprised a lot of people by beating Seattle to win the title in 2020, but has not started this season off so brightly. They’re not regarded as a favorite at the present time.
Even though they haven’t started off their 2021 campaigns too well, both New York City and LAFC are considered to be in with a shout, as their squads are deep enough to cope with a grueling season. Seattle remains the bookmakers’ favorite though.
There have been eight different MLS Cup winners in the last ten years, so the MLS betting markets are always fairly attractive.
Japan’s top league is one of the biggest in Asia and has attracted a lot of overseas players in its relatively short history. Although there are a number of newer clubs competing in the Japanese top flight, there are clubs that date back much earlier and were originally factory sides.
J League soccer first burst onto the global soccer world’s consciousness in the 1990s, when the new league was formed. Arsene Wenger was the head coach of Nagoya Grampus, and it attracted many big name players looking to finish off their careers, such as Zico and Gary Lineker.
These days the best players tend to be from Brazil – as is the case with a lot of Asian leagues – although there is some good homegrown talent and others from around South East Asia and Australia.
Due to COVID, there was no relegation last year, so the division is made up of 20 teams rather than the usual 18 for the 2021 season. The slightly longer schedule kicked off in February and finishes in December.
As to be expected, the Tokyo clubs have been the most successful over the years and likely to continue in 2021.
Kawasaki Frontale is the big favorite to win the title again this year, after finishing top in three of the last four seasons. Other Tokyo clubs to look out for are Yokohama F Marinos and Kashima Antlers, although Nagoya looks to be the closest rival to Kawasaki at the moment.
Vissel Kobe is another club that some might have heard of thanks to its ability to attract players such as Iniesta. But it already looks as though it will have to be content with a mid table finish this season.
Back to Europe now and the Norwegian topflight. Casual followers of the smaller leagues in Europe might know this league as the Tippeligaen, as it was called throughout the 90s and up to 2017 due to sponsorship reasons. That changed to the Eliteserien in 2017, and it has been known as that ever since.
Combatting the weather was a big reason for changing the season schedule to the summer in 1963 – although northern clubs were only allowed to compete as recently as 1972.
The other stat that is usually known about this league is that Rosenborg is the big team. Although the Trondheim club did dominate in the 1990s, winning 13 consecutive titles, the league has become a little more competitive since then.
It is still by far the most successful side in the country but last year saw the emergence of Bodo/Glimt as a new national power.
Bodo/Glimt is not even one of the biggest clubs in the league and was the first ever side from within the Arctic Circle to win the title last year.
It also managed a record points haul and scored over 100 goals in just 30 games. This exciting brand of soccer was noticed last year as the club narrowly lost to Milan in the Europa League.
With only a few games played this season so far, it’s Molde that is looking like being the main challenger to take the title from Bodo, with Rosenborg following up behind.
Unlike most leagues around the world, the capital city does not have a history of overly successful clubs. Valerenga is probably the best from Oslo at the moment, but it is unlikely to challenge for the European places – leaving the clubs from the far north to dominate again.
League of Ireland Premier
Sometimes referred to as the Irish Premier on sports betting sites, the League of Ireland switched to a summer schedule in 2003 to attract more attention away from the English leagues and bring in some much-needed money to its cash-starved clubs.
It was only a three-year trial in the beginning, but the summer move was so successful, it has remained and is now a welcome addition to the soccer calendar.
League of Ireland clubs have also done better in the early rounds of the European competitions since the switch.
The likes of Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians are never going to win a Champions or Europa League but, with the players already match fit when the opening rounds begin, the Irish clubs have a head start on many of their opponents.
Shelbourne and Bohemians are also up there, alongside Dundalk. Shelbourne is now in the second tier but these three – as well as St Patrick’s Athletic – were all favorites for this season too.
But things have not gone quite to plan for the big clubs.
Sligo Rovers, who have only ever won three league titles and last finished first back in 2012, is leading the way with Shamrock Rovers and St Pat’s trying to keep up. Dundalk and Bohemians are experiencing a tough campaign so far and might even end up missing out on the lucrative European qualification.
A strong defense has kept Sligo at the top so far, but there is a long way to go in what looks like being a fascinating title race this year.
Summer soccer leagues came into their own last year when all the big leagues were postponed due to the COVID pandemic.
Countries with looser health regulations, such as Belarus, or those who had already proved to be successfully dealing with the virus, like South Korea – suddenly became popular with soccer betting fans who were unable to back their usual favorites.
None of these leagues profiled here will grow as big as La Liga or the EPL (no matter what the MLS hopes will happen). But playing games when most of the world is taking a summer break has proved to be a successful way of attracting more attention to its players and clubs.
For betting fans, these leagues are an excellent way to keep interested over the summer months.
This year also sees the delayed European Championship and the Copa America, so it will be interesting to see whether the stories from the League of Ireland and MLS manage to break through all that action.