World Cup Final Became the Second-Most Popular Sports Event of 2022 for American Bettors
The World Cup final surpassed the NCAA championship game and the NBA Finals to become the second-most popular sports event of the year among US bettors. The industry’s geolocation provider, GeoComply, revealed that there were 7.9 million geolocation transactions during the epic showdown between Argentina and France. That was surpassed only by the Super Bowl, which racked up an enormous 23.5 million geolocation transactions. It left the World Cup final ahead of the NBA Finals (5.1 million), the NCAA championship game (4.8 million) and the Stanley Cup Finals (1.9 million) as the second-most wagered upon sports event in 2022.
GeoComply revealed that there were 1.7 million active users on sports betting apps and websites during the World Cup final. Argentina scored twice in the first half to secure a commanding lead, and it seemed as though La Albiceleste would cruise to victory. Yet Kylian Mbappé fired in a dramatic brace for France to force extra-time. Argentina captain Lionel Messi restored Argentina’s lead, only for Mbappé to complete his hat-trick in the dying stages, leading to a penalty shootout, which Argentina won.
The World Cup final figure was behind the 3.1 million active users during the Super Bowl in February. However, it was ahead of the NCAA championship game (1.1 million), Game 6 of the NBA Finals (1 million) and way ahead of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals (500,000). “They say Americans don’t like soccer, but they certainly got a kick out of betting on the World Cup,” said Sam Bastile, GeoComply VP of Business Development for North American Gaming. “GeoComply’s data disproves the myth that Americans are not interested in The Beautiful Game.”
The Future Looks Bright for the USMNT
Estimates suggest that 4 billion people across the globe watched the World Cup final, cementing soccer’s status as the world’s most popular sport. It is true that soccer has never been as prominent as football, basketball and baseball in the US. However, reports suggest that it has now overtaken hockey to emerge as the No. 4 sport in America, and it should continue to build momentum in the years ahead.
The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup, along with Canada and Mexico, with the final scheduled to take place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The USMNT performed well at the 2022 World Cup, qualifying from their group with an unbeaten record. They lost to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, but their performances suggested that the future looks bright for the team. They have an exciting core of youngsters, featuring the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Gio Reyna, who should continue to improve, perhaps giving the USA a shot at glory on home soil in 2026.
As such, BetMGM is offering just +1800 on the USA winning the World Cup, while FanDuel has +1900 and PointsBet is offering +2000. You can find +4000 at BetRivers, but it is a far cry from the build-up to the 2022 World Cup, when Gregg Berhalter’s men were +10000 or +150000 outsiders. The group stage match between the USA and England attracted more than 15.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched men’s soccer match ever shown on English-language TV in the United States, so it could become even more popular in 2026, as there will not be a time difference, and the USA should have a stronger team.
A Record-Breaker In Terms of Engagement
OpenBet, which provides the sports betting engine for some of America’s largest online sportsbooks, backed up GeoComply’s report. It revealed that its worldwide customers processed more than 200 million bets across all channels during the World Cup, with a handle of more than $2 billion. That represented a 13% increase on the 2018 World Cup. There were record-breaking performances for European and Canadian customers of OpenBet, with engagement levels up 22% and 21% respectively, but it also reported a spike in the United States.
OpenBet said that the World Cup was twice as popular as March Madness at North American operators. It also revealed that there were 5.6 million bets placed on the England vs. USA game, and that the USMNT’s four matches garnered $100 million in wagers at North American OpenBet customers.
“This year’s World Cup has been a record-breaker in terms of engagement, and we are thrilled to have provided operators and bettors with an experience to match the sporting spectacle displayed in Qatar,” said Jordan Levin, the chief executive of OpenBet. “Alongside a strong performance in Europe, the growth we have seen in North American markets demonstrates our ability to cater to these rapidly regulating jurisdictions, and this also puts us in good stead for the 2026 World Cup, set to be held in the US, Canada, and Mexico. The massive figures are further evidence that OpenBet is the partner of choice to deliver on the biggest sporting stages with the scale and reliability to fuel memorable betting experiences.”
The World Cup takes place every four years, so this was the first tournament in which millions of Americans could legally wager on the action online. PASPA, the federal sports wagering ban, was overturned in 2018, but the World Cup had already concluded by the time the first apps began springing up in New Jersey that year. Online sports wagering is now legally available in many states, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Virginia, Arizona, Indiana, Tennessee, Maryland and several other large jurisdictions.
By the time 2026 rolls around, it will be even more widespread. Ohio will roll out its highly anticipated legal sports wagering industry on New Year’s Day, followed swiftly by Massachusetts. Sports betting remains illegal in California and Texas, while it is facing a legal challenge in Florida, but sportsbooks could be available in one or more of those states by 2026, which would drive a huge spike in wagering activity.