Summer Loving: It’s Amateur Hour! Part 1 – What Low-Level Leagues Should You Focus on in the Summer Months
Back in August 2018, I wrote what proved to be a popular article on how punters could profit from amateur football. As most of my profit has come from what Jon calls the ‘summer leagues,’ it makes sense to create a series of articles on how you can bash the bookies by betting on leagues, and backing teams, that most people have never heard of.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed the sequences of multipart articles that have been posted on Football Advisor this year so far. If so, you will be happy to know that this is the first of a four-part series on how to win by betting on obscure leagues. Future articles will show bookmaker pricing blunders, places to find the statistics you need, and examples of winning bets in practice.
Today’s article is an introduction into the type of leagues you need to focus on.
The Baltic Nations
In geographical terms, the Baltic states consist of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They get the name because they are located on the Baltic Sea’s eastern coast. While all three countries enjoy a high Human Development Index, the same cannot be said for the standard of football.
There is a total of six divisions in the Estonian football pyramid; ranging from the Meistriliiga to the IV Liga. Bookmakers hardly ever feature games from below the II Liiga, which is the fourth tier, however. There are only a handful of professional sides in Estonia, and this issue leads to some farcical results.
FCI Levedia and Flora Tallinn tend to dominate although Nomme Kalju won the league in 2018. They remained undefeated last season yet lost their very first game in the 2019 season! There are 10 teams in the league, and each side plays one another four times. A lack of clubs in Estonia means the second and third string teams of the top clubs feature heavily in the second, third, and fourth division.
The bookmakers tend to price the Meistriliiga mismatches correctly, but the real fun occurs in the lower tiers. There is simply no way of knowing how well a second or third string team will play on the day due to traveling issues and potentially different line-ups. You can try to get team news from Twitter or other sources. However, games involving the likes of Flora’s B team are worth monitoring in-play because there can be some unusual scorelines.
Football trails behind basketball as the most popular sport in Lithuania. While there are five divisions, bookies usually only feature games from the top two divisions, A Lyga and I Lyga. There are only eight teams in the top flight, and they play one another four times before the top six sides play one another in a Championship round.
Suduva and Zalgiris tend to dominate, and there can be some big scores in the Championship round as fatigue likely sets in amongst the lesser sides. The I Liga consists of 14 sides who play one another twice. Annihilations are common! The bottom side last season, Kupiskis, conceded 91 goals in 26 games but managed 46 goals themselves; a decent ‘overs’ bet perhaps! Koralas were the worst team with 12-0 and 10-0 defeats and were disqualified for failing to field a team on two occasions.
The second division also features the second teams of Stumbras, Zalgiris, and Trakai. They often have very bad away records so keep an eye out!
There are only three recognised divisions in Latvia, although the third tier consists of five regions. You will occasionally get matches from those leagues, and I will show you where to find the statistics in a couple of weeks. The first division, called the Virsliga, has nine teams this season.
There is a team called Metta/LU that somehow manages to finish second bottom almost every season but wins the relegation playoff each time! The second division, the 1. Liga tends to consist of between 12 and 14 teams. There are plenty of mismatches with some big scores happening near the end of the season. For reference, last year’s winners, Daugavpils/Progress, scored 120 goals in 22 games!
It is always worth watching out for cup games in these leagues because the gap in quality between the top division and the rest is enormous. There was a 31-0 scoreline in the Estonian Cup a couple of years ago for example!
This has been a favourite football nation of mine for some time. Despite the small population, there are five official divisions in Icelandic football comprised of over 70 teams. It is the fifth tier, the 4. Deild, which provides the most fun. Exceptionally bad sides concede an extraordinary amount of goals, and the bookies don’t always pick up on it.
I would advise you to focus on the third and fourth tier of Norwegian football as this is where the divisions get split up, and the quality degenerates. The likes of Odd, Rosenberg, and Valerenga have second string sides in the third and fourth tier, and they are typically very strong at home.
Unpredictability is the name of the game here because as is the case with Estonia, one can never tell how strong a second-string side actually is. In-play monitoring can be gold at times.
Although the fourth and fifth tiers provide high scores, it is the Swedish U19 and U21 leagues that can yield the greatest profits. Once again, it is all about in-play betting, and the home side is often capable of utterly destroying a team. I have seen a fair amount of 8+ goal games in Sweden’s underage leagues.
This is not a league I personally bet on much, but the third and fourth tier occasionally has mismatches.
The Finnish lower leagues are seldom dull! There are four main divisions that will be available on most bookmaking sites, but it is the fourth division Kolmonen that is the best tier to focus on. There are eight separate groups within the Kolmonen with up to 14 teams.
As is the case with Estonia and Iceland, the quality of these sides varies drastically. Sides that come up from the fifth division are often overmatched and are on the end of a few real hidings. Atlantis FC has been smashing teams at home for the last couple of years but ran into a better side in Reipas last season. Despite scoring 21 goals in their final three games, Atlantis is stuck in the Kolmonen for another season which could be good news for punters!
Rest of the World
These days, it is possible to bet on leagues from all over the world. The Barbados league is becoming a firm favourite of mine for goals, but it is not a summer league, unfortunately.
The Chinese Super League is attracting faded European stars and those from South America and beyond who fancy a nice payday. As one would expect, the top sides have excellent home records. Keep an eye out for Guangzhou Evergrande who hit 4+ in over half of their home games last season, and also concede their fair share.
The MLS also attracts aging superstars, and in the 2018 season, there were 3.19 goals per match. The quality of the defending is poor, and only the New York Red Bulls conceded less than a goal a game last season. Even the top sides struggle away from home, and you could pick up some nice priced home wins as those who play the likes of Atlanta United FC, and New York are often overpriced.
This is another one of my favourite nations for football betting. Aside from the A-League, which is the only professional league, there are numerous state and regional leagues where mismatches are common. Each individual state, such as Queensland and Victoria, have several divisions apiece, and the cup games, especially in women’s football, can be utter goalfests.
Women’s football matches are a treasure trove of potential winners because the gap in quality is so massive, often within the same division! Whether it is Denmark, Romania, Italy, Spain (especially the second division), Australia, or Brazil, the possibility of a big score always lingers. Cup matches between first division teams and those from lower tiers can offer exceptional value if you know what to look for.
I pretty much focus on the fourth and fifth tiers of Russian football. This is where the real amateur stuff is and the Moscow championship is one of my favourite leagues. The top sides in this league tend to put 5+ past lower rated sides and the bookies are often slow to pick up on these kinds of mismatches. As is always the case, it only takes one or two good bets to guarantee a profitable week.
It would be downright negligent of me not to mention friendly matches. Yes, they can be very much hit and miss, but once again, if you know what to look for, a well-researched friendly can provide you with an enormous profit.
If you can find team news of these games on a team’s official Twitter account or website, that’s great! Otherwise, focus on matches involving Austrian and German sides in particular; as Everton fans will know. The Blues defeated an Austrian seventh tier village side 21-0 last pre-season. The game was available in-play and 10+ match goals was on offer at odds greater than Evens at kick off!
There are several other potentially lucrative leagues that I haven’t mentioned in the article above. The Philippines league, especially the cups, is always worth a look. The Hong Kong second and third division routinely brings up huge scores, as does the reserve league of that country; and the Macao first and second divisions should also not be overlooked.
Bookmakers offer matches from obscure leagues throughout the year, but this number is dwarfed by what is available during the summer. When the ‘big’ leagues such as England, Spain, Germany, and Italy, not to mention the major European competitions, are finished, the bookmakers have to fill in their time somehow.
The solution is to add in leagues from places all around the world that most punters are unaware of. The hope is to lure bettors into staking money on leagues they don’t understand. Why else would they take such a risk? Believe me; they don’t price these leagues nearly as well as they do with the major leagues. This is primarily due to the low quality of football and the unpredictability of it. Manchester City doesn’t travel 200 miles to a game on an old bus after working a full shift in a factory, but an Estonian team’s players just might!
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Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on www.lynchthewriter.com or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.