Get ready for America’s biggest World Cup
BETEGY CEO Alex Kornilov discusses how the tournament will impact user engagement and online betting in the US as well as the growth of soccer in the country itself
We are faced with a very unusual World Cup this year. Normally held in June and July, the tournament has been moved to November and December, which may end up being a blessing in disguise for soccer fans, sportsbooks, and media companies in the US.
It is hard to judge from apple to apple, but there is every chance the timing of the tournament will drive unprecedented interest in the US. In the summertime here we’ve always seen less traffic due to vacations and less major sport being played.
However, people will be home for the holiday season and with the NFL, NBA, and NHL seasons well underway and MLB and MLS only just finishing, this could be the perfect time for US sports fans to engage with a big international soccer competition.
Additionally, the fact that the US national team are taking part for the first time in eight years will also be a big boost for engagement, both in their fixtures but also throughout the rest of the competition.
It seems highly likely that this year’s event will be the most popular World Cup ever in the US from a betting perspective, not just because of the US being a team to be reckoned with, but also because of how popular soccer and betting on soccer is becoming. A recent study from the American Gaming Association (AGA) found that more than 20 million Americans plan to place a bet during the tournament.
Importance of technology for engagement
Modern-day technology platforms allow sportsbooks to appeal to numerous audiences and, thanks to the ability to engage with multiple forms of content, there’s a wealth of ways for bettors to interact. It also enables companies to use a number of platforms to gauge just how fans view the World Cup.
Promotions are a good way to expand betting traffic but they need to be tailored so they can stand out from the crowd. It is really important that promotions are packaged up correctly and organized so they sit alongside wider betting content to drive interest and engagement.
Another reason why this will be a historic tournament in the US is that there will be much more user-generated content. Qatar as a base for this will be great, creating narratives and stories around the event. All content related to ‘Qatar living’ during the tournament will see the most penetration of user-generated content given the prevalence of mobile technology.
The wider tournament at large can become as popular as the main event. In the US, for example, official rights holders are able to collect user-generated content via social, and this can be a platform for further engagement. So, take Instagram, Tik Tok, and more – all these serve as a platform to bring fans closer to the action and get them more closely involved.
Next up are the brand sponsors. The majority of tournament sponsors are US-based. Waze is a great example of this. You can enable World Cup mode and use your flags or even have a World Cup commentator guiding your ride to work.
Soccer on the rise in the US
There is also the ever-growing interest in soccer in the US. The popularity of the entire league, as well as its clubs, is growing all the time. Teams are spending massively on promotions, and there is so much more interest compared to the World Cups of 2010 and 2014, with the US team missing out in 2018.
It’s really becoming part of public discourse; everyone’s talking about it more than ever and the MLS has done a fantastic job in promoting the league. They’re taking all of the work that the likes of the NFL and NBA have done and applying that to soccer.
This could not have happened without the massive rise in tech – the ability to engage with three different sports at once across mobile, desktop, and TV, all in front of fans. You can literally track three different events all at the same time.
Not only that, but with the rise of algorithmic-delivered content, we’ve seen a huge increase in the way content is autonomously delivered to players. So, even the most hardcore NFL fans will still be attracted to take a look at soccer-based videos – just the same as we’d see soccer fans interested in viewing US sports content.
Demographics too are key. Hispanic audiences are growing massively in the US and soccer is obviously a hugely popular sport in those communities, so the interest is undoubtedly building among them which then feeds into wider society.
How popular can soccer get in the US?
This will be the most popular World Cup ever in the US and the three biggest factors which will drive this are the calendar, the continued rise of the MLS, and accessibility of content, with the latter point the real key.
Getting US sports fans that access to deeper content, which they will never have seen before at an international tournament, is a huge opportunity for US operators and sportsbooks to attract a whole new audience they can engage with and hopefully retain in the long term. And, with the 2026 World Cup hosted in North America, the timing is perfect.
Alex Kornilov is the CEO and founder of BETEGY. BETEGY provides global betting operators and media outlets with analytics and data visualization by generating instant, high-quality personalized content using machine learning. BETEGY’s clients include the likes of ESPN, Yahoo Sports, bwin, Parimatch, Tipico, and Sportsbet.io.