Soccer’s most heavily bet-on event kicks off this weekend as the 2022 World Cup gets underway on Sunday.
Unfortunately for gamblers in the Sunshine State, there is no legal Florida sports betting industry available.
But according to a report from Forbes, gamblers worldwide are expected to wager $160 billion on the 32-team tournament. American bettors are expected to make up $1.8 billion of that figure.
That number will only grow during the 2026 World Cup as more states legalize and launch sports betting markets. Especially if larger states like Florida, Texas and California have sportsbooks by then.
Despite the inability to bet on soccer in Florida, the state has some ties to this year’s event. Two players from Florida’s Major League Soccer franchises will be on the pitch in Qatar representing their home country.
DeAndre Yedlin – D – Inter Miami – USA
Yedlin is a 29-year-old defender for Inter Miami. Throughout his 2022 campaign with Miami, the Seattle native was one of Miami’s top defensive players.
He started 33 of 34 games this season and played nearly 3,000 minutes en route to an MLS All-Star selection. He helped lead Miami to a 14-14-6 record and a sixth-place seeding in the Eastern Conference.
Yedlin started his professional career with his hometown Seattle Sounders in 2013. After two seasons in the MLS, he headed abroad to play for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League. He also played for Sunderland and Newcastle United before playing professionally in Turkey in 2020 and 2021.
Head Coach Gregg Berhalter named Yedlin to the 26-man roster earlier this week. He is expected to battle for a starting spot and be one of the team’s top defensive options.
The United States will start its World Cup with a match against Wales Monday, Nov. 21 at 2 pm ET/11 am PT.
Facundo Torres – M – Orlando City – Uruguay
Torres is a 22-year-old midfielder for Orlando City FC. The budding star made his way to Central Florida after two seasons with Penarol of the Uruguayan Primera Division.
During his first MLS season, the Uruguay native scored nine goals and tallied 10 assists. He was also an incredibly accurate passer and led Orlando to a 14-14-6 record. Despite holding the same record as Inter Miami, Orlando lost the tiebreaker and was the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Uruguay hosted and won the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930. The South American nation won the contest again two decades later in 1950. Historically, the nation is a soccer powerhouse.
Consequently, the young Torres isn’t expected to play much during this year’s tournament. However, his youth likely indicates plenty of opportunities to make significant contributions to Uruguay’s success in future World Cups.
Most soccer media outlets are projecting midfielders Lucas Torreira, Rodrigo Bentancur, Federico Valverde and Giorgian de Arrascaeta to get most of the playing time. Martin Caceres, a 35-year-old defender, is the only other MLS player on the Uruguay roster. Caceres played the 2022 season with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Florida lacks any homegrown talent in this year’s World Cup
Yedlin and Torres will represent the two Florida MLS franchises in Qatar. But there won’t be a single native Floridian on the pitch this year.
The state has a rich history of being a breeding ground for some of the country’s top athletes. For example, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup team had three players with Florida ties.
Goalkeeper Mia Justus and defender Lauren Flynn were part of an NCAA national championship squad at Florida State. Additionally, Carina Lageyre hailed from Cooper City.