The United States isn't considered a World Cup favorite. Not even close. The Americans are not even a heavy favorite to advance to the knockout stage from their group.
That doesn't matter to plenty of bettors.
The biggest liability for the 2022 World Cup for BetMGM is the United States winning it all. The Americans are 100-to-1 to win it all. As of Sunday, of all the tickets written on which team will win the World Cup, 10.9% of them are on the United States. That's the third-most, only behind soccer powers Argentina (18.1%) and Brazil (13.4). BetMGM offers odds on which team will win its group, and 82.9% of Group B tickets were on the United States as of last week.
Serious bettors will tell you to never bet with your heart. Casual bettors like to back their favorite teams, and there might not be another team that everyone can agree on like the United States in the men's or women's World Cup.
That means the exercise of breaking down World Cup matches doesn't matter much for USA's games. Most bettors are going to take the Americans. Those who rarely bet soccer will still get a few bucks on the home team. Some might never bet soccer and wonder why there are three sets of odds instead of two (the most common soccer bet is the three-way line, in which you can also bet on a draw).
The United States, which failed to qualify for the last World Cup, is a +145 favorite against Wales on Monday. The draw is +210 and Wales is +220. The US side had 85% of the money bet on the match at BetMGM, with 7% on the draw and 8% on Wales. It's not fun to bet on Wales for the USMNT's first World Cup match since 2014. It's definitely not fun to bet on the draw.
Sports betting, for many, is for entertainment. Casual bettors will take the USMNT blindly. Even serious bettors can make a case that USA isn't a bad play against a Wales squad that is in its first World Cup since 1958. Americans will be rooting with their hearts, and perhaps with their wallets too.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Monday:
'Monday Night Football' is in Mexico
It's rare that an NFL game isn't the marquee event on the sporting calendar. The United States' return to the World Cup has pushed San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals down a bit.
There will be plenty of time to recover after the USMNT's match before the NFL kicks off in Mexico City. The 49ers are up to a 10-point favorite at BetMGM. That line was -8 most of the week.
There is a question over Kyler Murray's status. He has a hamstring injury and while he got in limited practices all week, he is listed as questionable. Colt McCoy did play well replacing him last week. The 49ers are big favorites and perhaps that is justified. They do have a lot of talent, which doesn't necessarily show in its 5-4 record. One of these games the 49ers might look like the talented team that many are touting as their Super Bowl pick out of the NFC. Still, 10 points is a lot, even if the Cardinals don't get a true home game on Monday night.
The rest of the World Cup
Hopefully you got up early to place some England-Iran bets, because that game started at 8 a.m. Eastern time. There will be a lot of early action over the next month from Qatar. The 11 a.m. match has the Netherlands against Senegal. Netherlands is -145, Senegal is +450 and the draw is +260. Make sure to get in your Tuesday action before you go to bed; Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia starts at 5 a.m. Eastern time.
Maui Invitational highlights college hoops
Lost amid the NFL and World Cup, the Maui Invitational starts Monday with five ranked teams in the field. It starts at 2:30 p.m. Eastern with No. 23 Texas Tech against No. 10 Creighton. Creighton is 4-0, though it hasn't played anyone tough and struggled a bit in the opener. This week will be a good test for the preseason darling.
The other Maui games are Louisville against Arkansas (-15.5), Ohio State against San Diego State (-4.5) and Cincinnati against Arizona (-9.5). It's a fun event that will return to the Lahaina Civic Center for the first time since 2019. The last couple Maui Invitational tournaments were not held in Hawaii due to COVID-19.
NBA, NHL in action
There are eight NBA games and 10 NHL games on a busy Monday. The best NBA game pits two fun Eastern Conference teams as the Atlanta Hawks take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are 2.5-point favorites. The best NHL matchup is the red-hot Boston Bruins, at 16-2-0 this season, against the 11-6-1 Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins have been very good, but the Lightning are slight favorites at -115.
What's the best bet?
I'll take the Cardinals and all those points. I still need to see the 49ers look like the dominant team everyone thinks they can be. Let's also add on some action on Netherlands, Texas Tech and the Cavaliers. What a fun sports day.