The 4 Best Overlooked Sports Leagues and Competitions

Other Sports | March 30, 2021

Legal sports betting has introduced many fans to new leagues and competitions. If a gambler in a U.S. time zone goes looking for sportsbook action with quick outcomes at 4 AM, they’ll need to become familiar with overseas basketball, soccer, and/or hockey leagues very quickly.

The 2020 pandemic’s affect on sports schedules has also helped viewers get to know new leagues, including Korea’s “KBO” baseball, one of the first organizations to begin playing competitive hardball again last summer. Korean and Japanese baseball leagues’ clever stand-ins for a live crowd, including “outfield robots” that were in place long before COVID-19, inspired state-side clubs and college field houses to get creative with empty seats while attendance was restricted.

But excellent sports and games still fall through the cracks, garnering no attention from fans and media, or at least only a fraction of the interest that the big-shots draw. Sometimes, it’s because a dominant brand like the NFL or English Premier League is working to drown-out competition. Other times, great leagues and events are overlooked out of prejudice, habit, or plain old double standards.

Scroll for a list of four badly underappreciated sports leagues.

Australia’s A-League

Americans love rooting for Team Australia, known as the “Socceroos,” in the FIFA World Cup. But those early-AM sports sharks who’re betting on KHL faceoffs, Australian Rules Football, or baseball from Korea should also look into Australia’s “A-League,” among the faster-paced soccer club leagues on any continent. A-League viewers don’t suffer long waits while teams play “straight ahead” or pass back-and-forth in front of their own goalkeeper. Pitches are cut for speedy ball movement, and clubs try to score in every half. In a two-week span in March 2021, A-League teams scored three-plus goals in matches eight separate times, with Western Sydney needing four to defeat Wellington Phoenix by a single tally.

High School Football

Prep football is the purest style of American pigskin. To go over the corporate homogeny of the NFL would be redundant, though The Shield’s playbooks are starting to become more interesting with the advent of dual-threat NFL QBs. College football coaches – at least at the FBS level – have their choice of plays and tactics severely limited by boosters, alumni, and top recruits. Not so on high school gridirons, where teams simply do whatever it takes to win. It’s a lot of fun to seek out “eccentric” high school pigskin tactics across the United States, from Muskegon High’s “Ski-Gun” offense, to Pulaski Academy’s four-down system, to the “A-10” playbook that utilizes one down lineman and as many as nine wide receivers. Prep football is the pure science of sport in action.

IIHF Hockey

The International Ice Hockey Federation might be the most-popular sports brand that fans rarely mention by name. Though the organization runs the World Juniors and sanctions Ice Hockey at the Olympic Games, the IIHF’s annual flagship event is the Ice Hockey World Championships, about which NHL clubs and fans are encouraged to spread lies and disinformation to keep people from tuning-in. The IIHF Worlds are held in May, when as few as four NHL teams are still competing for a Stanley Cup, but the myth that “all of the best hockey players” are unavailable to play IIHF games remains a stubborn falsehood. In 2019, over five times as many of the NHL’s top 100 scorers played in the World Championships as in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The FA Cup

The FA Cup involves UK soccer clubs, and is therefore a widely followed and celebrated event in Europe and America. But it doesn’t get nearly as much publicity or coverage as even ordinary Premier League matches do. FA Cup matches have a reputation for second-best lineups, though club managers are putting more and more excellent starting-11s on the pitch in FA Cup fixtures. Ultimately it’s a matter of perception – the championship of English football will be considered “secondary” until supporters choose to view it afresh. FA Cup sponsors are confronting the syndrome in ads such as the funny clip below.

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Kurt Boyer

Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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