Sports calendar 2020 – Guide to upcoming sports to bet on

Bianca Andreescu v Belinda Bencic predictions - US Open semi finals

Welcome to the World Gambling List’s 2020 guide to sports betting where we will run you through some of the highlights of what will be another huge sporting year.

The sports calendar becomes more packed every year and we have you covered so you can plan ahead, and we may even find you some long-range winners.

It is an Olympic year, of course, with the five-ringed circus landing in Tokyo, Japan, in late July, but there are so many other major events for the keen sports fan to sink their teeth into.
Football’s Euro 2020 kicks off in June, with 12 cities around Europe sharing hosting duties; cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup is on in Australia in October; while golf’s Ryder Cup is in Wisconsin in the US in September.

They are but highlights of the sporting calendar so read on for our sport-by-sport guide for events to look out for in 2020.

Football

There is never a dull year in the beautiful game.

The most anticipated soccer event for 2020 will be UEFA’s Euro 2020 (June 12-July 12; defending champions: Portugal), the quadrennial championship of Europe. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the tournament it will be played across 12 European cities, with the semi-finals and final to be played at England’s 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium. There will be 24 teams competing and the teams must submit their 23-man squads at least 10 days before the tournament begins.

Elsewhere, there is the Olympic tournament (July 24-August 9; host: Japan; defending champions: Brazil (men), Germany (women)). On the men’s side the Olympic tournament does not mean a lot given the under-23 selection criteria. In the booming women’s game though, the Olympics rank second only to the World Cup.

Another wonderful event in 2020 is the Copa America (June 12-July 12; defending champions: Brazil), which like its European counterpart is being hosted by cities all around the continent, with the final in Barranquilla, Colombia. It will probably be little master Leo Messi’s final big event in Argentinian colours.

On top of this football fiesta, we have all the usual domestic leagues, many of which are in full cry as 2020 begins.

We won’t run through them all here, but we will mention a couple of other big dates football fans need to lock into their calendar: the 2020 UEFA men’s Champions League final (Saturday, May 30; Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey; defending champions: Liverpool) and the women’s Champions League final (Sunday, May 24; Franz Horr Stadium, Vienna, Austria; defending champions: Lyon).

Cricket

As we have written previously, we were not early adopters of Twenty20 cricket. But it has proved to be more than a fad and, while our first preference in cricket will always be Test matches, we have come to accept T20 is here to stay and jumped on the bandwagon.

Which is fortunate because the highlight of the 2020 cricket year will almost certainly be the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia (October 18-November 15; total matches: 45; defending champions: West Indies). It should be a wonderful tournament with 16 teams competing. Ladbrokes has installed the home team Australia as early $4 favourites and they are certainly always hard to beat on home turf though the world title in the shortest form of the game has so far eluded them.

As well as the T20 showpiece, domestic short-form leagues will also attract plenty of attention, starting with the second half of Australia’s Big Bash League (December 17, 2019-February 8, 2020; defending champions: Melbourne Renegades) and then, of course, you have the incomparable Indian Premier League (first match: March 23; defending champions: Mumbai Indians).

Then there is yet another new innovation from the England Cricket Board, which will hold its The Hundred tournament commencing in July. In this new format involving eight city-based franchises with men’s and women’s teams, each team bats for only 100 balls instead of the 120 in T20 cricket. It is supposed to facilitate matches finishing in less than three hours, but we are sceptical there is room for yet another format. The jury is out.

The women’s Twenty20 World Cup (February 21-March 8; total matches: 23; defending champions: Australia) will also be held in Australia in 2020.

WGL hot pick: We think Australia are a decent bet to do the T20 World Cup double in 2020: the Southern Stars are dominant in women’s cricket and the men are always so hard to beat on home soil and their recent short-form displays have been first class. You could get roughly $10 for the double at leading cricket betting sites, if you shop around.

Olympics

The 2020 Olympics will be in Tokyo, Japan, and run from July 24 to August 9. This will be the second time Tokyo has hosted the Olympics as it also did in 1964. Interestingly Japan has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, in 1972 (Sapporo) and 1998 (Nagano), as well.

What a spectacle it promises to be with more than 11,000 athletes competing across hundreds of events in 33 sports. Karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding will appear in the Olympics for the first time, while baseball and softball are back. The new 3×3 basketball competition is also an interesting addition.

Of course, Russia has been banned by WADA from the 2020 Olympics, as at December 2019. But Russian athletes who can prove they have no involvement in the doping scandal in the country can compete under a neutral flag.

Australian football

The Australian Football League’s 2020 season kicks off on Thursday, March 19, with the traditional season opener between old rivals Richmond and Carlton. Richmond are the defending premiers after their thumping grand final victory at the MCG, and leading sports bookmaker Ladbrokes has installed the Tigers favourites at $4.50 to make it three premierships in four years. West Coast are second elects in early betting at $6.50, and they have been strengthened by gaining star midfielder Tim Kelly from fellow contenders Geelong for the 2020 season.

Ladbrokes has also opened betting on teams to finish in the top four and top eight at the end of the home and away season, as well as on the Brownlow Medal, an individual award voted on by the umpires.

Defending premiers: Richmond. Runners-up: Greater Western Sydney.
Brownlow medal 2019: Nat Fyfe (Fremantle).
Grand final 2020: Saturday, September 26, MCG.

WGL says: Our AFL expert believes the Western Bulldogs, the 2016 premiers, are well placed to make a run at the flag in 2020 and represent great value around $15. Ensure your chosen betting operator offers options to cash out all or part of your bet (Ladbrokes offers this feature) as the Bulldogs are highly likely to shorten up considerably in the betting in the early part of the season.

The AFL women’s league begins on Friday, February 7, also with a clash between Carlton and Richmond. Ladbrokes has made Adelaide $4 favourites, ahead of North Melbourne at $4.50. (Defending premiers: Adelaide.)

Rugby league

The Rugby League World Cup is on again in 2021, so the main interest in 2020 will surround the two big domestic leagues and the State of Origin series in Australia.

The National Rugby League (March 12-October 4; defending champions: Sydney Roosters) kicks off with the Parramatta v Bulldogs clash on Thursday, March 12. Britain’s Super League (January 30-October 10; defending champions: St Helens) begins at the end of January and will feature 12 teams in 2020: 10 from England, one from France and, for the first time, one from Canada, the Toronto Wolfpack.

Amid the start of the Super League season, NRL champions Sydney Roosters will play Super League winners St Helens in the World Club Challenge in England on February 22. The Roosters will be chasing a fifth WCC title at The Totally Wicked Stadium in St Helens, having won all four previous WCC clashes in which they have played.

Several other events will pique the interest of league fans.

The NRL Nines is a nine-a-side tournament held in the NRL pre-season in January or February and in 2020 it will be played in Perth.

While of course, later in the year much of Australia (and other rugby league-loving parts of the world) stops to watch the three State of Origin matches between Queensland and New South Wales. It is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the game. The date for the three matches in 2020 are as follows: Game 1: Wednesday, June 3, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide; Game 2: Sunday, June 21, ANZ Stadium, Sydney; Game 3: Wednesday, July 8, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.

WGL says: After their heartbreaking loss in the NRL grand final, we would like to think Canberra Raiders could bounce back and contend again. Unfortunately for the Raiders though, NRL fortunes can swing quickly and decisively on player movements between clubs. It’s not unusual for clubs to come from outside the top eight in the previous season and challenge in the finals. We see the Roosters ($4) as clearly the team to beat and Brisbane Broncos ($21) as potential big risers.

Rugby union

After the great excitement of the Rugby World Cup in 2019, won of course in powerful style by South Africa, it’s back to more run-of-the-mill fare in 2020.

Which is not to say it won’t be a great year in rugby. There are plenty of storylines to play out: can England put the disappointment of losing another RWC final behind them and win the Six Nations; how will New Zealand rebound under new coach Ian Foster; likewise Australia with their new mentor, Kiwi Dave Rennie?

The international action gets serious with the Six Nations (February 1-March 14; defending champions: Wales). Betting is already available with the likes of William Hill, with England installed as hot favourites at $1.67. They are certainly the team to beat after their impressive performances in Japan in which they brushed aside all rivals, including the All Blacks in the semi-finals, until they ran into the Springboks wall in the final.

Of course, there is also plenty of domestic rugby action to wager on, headed by Super Rugby (January 31-June 20; defending champions: Crusaders) in the southern hemisphere; the Gallagher Premiership in Britain (October 18, 2019-June 20, 2020; defending champions: Saracens); and France’s Top 14 (August 25, 2019-June 2020, defending champions: Toulouse).

American football

The NFL season is really hotting up, with the wildcard play-off round held on the weekend of January 4-5.

Baltimore Ravens are hot favourites around the $3.25 to go all the way and win the Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida, on February 2.

There are many questions still to be answered and if you fancy Tom Brady to collect a seventh Super Bowl ring, his New England Patriots are around the $7 mark.

The Pro Bowl, which is the NFL’s all-star game, is at Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida, on January 26.

Baseball

The No.1 baseball league on the planet is Major League Baseball (March 26-September 27; defending champions: American League: Houston Astros, National League: Washington Nationals, World Series: Washington Nationals).

The Nationals are rated around $13 with most sportsbooks to make it back-to-back titles, with perennial powerhouse the New York Yankees the outright favourites at $5 to land their 28th title.

The 2020 MLB All-Star Game is on July 14 at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles.

Of course, baseball also returns to the Olympics in baseball-mad Japan in 2020. It has not been sighted at the Games since 2008 in Beijing.

Since it was admitted as a fully fledged sport at the Olympics in 1992, the gold medal has gone to Cuba three times (1992, 1996, 2004), the United States once (2000), and South Korea (2008).

WGL best bet: Japan have finished in the top four at every baseball tournament at the Games, with the silver medal in 1996 and the bronze in 1992 and 2004. They will be in the mix again on home soil.

Basketball

Of course we are right in the middle of the NBA season (October 22, 2019-May/June 2020; defending champions: Eastern: Toronto Raptors, Western: Golden State Warriors, NBA finals: Toronto Raptors). Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors to their first title in a memorable play-off series in 2019 and his new team, the LA Clippers, are among the favourites to deliver him another title.

As for international basketball, the Olympic tournament should be a cracker. Hot favourites the USA and Serbia both fell early at the world championships in 2019, with Spain going on to claim a well deserved title, but the Americans and Serbs in particular will be desperate to climb back to the top in Japan.

In betting on the women’s Olympic title, the USA are red-hot favourites, and quite rightly too given they have won the past three Olympic titles in convincing fashion.

Boxing

Arguably the biggest questions in boxing heading into 2020 surround the biggest men in the caper, with the rematch between heavyweights Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury scheduled to take place on February 22. Wilder is the WBC heavyweight title holder. The first Wilder-Fury bout in December 2018 ended in a controversial draw, with many pundits believing the Brit Fury had the better of the contest. The winner of the February Wilder-Fury clash could face Anthony Joshua in a megabucks heavyweight title unification bout later in the year.

Cycling

As always in professional cycling the most anticipated events are the grand tours of Europe with the jewel in the crown the Tour De France (June 27-July 19; defending champion: Egal Bernal (Colombia)), with the 107th edition of the race starting in Nice. The riders will cover 3470km over 21 stages, with Bernal and four-time winner Chris Froome at the top of betting with most bookies.

The other grand tours are the Giro d’Italia (May 9-May 31, defending champion: Richard Carapaz (Ecuador)) and the Vuelta a Espana (August 14-September 6, defending champion: Primoz Roglic (Slovenia)).

Other not-to-be-missed events in 2020 are the men’s and women’s road races at the Olympics in Japan.

Tennis

Heading into 2020 the burning question in tennis remains largely the same as it was heading into 2019.

Can the old guard of tennis hall of famers Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams continue to dominate the landscape? Well, I guess given Williams and Federer did not win a grand slam in 2019 (the final at Wimbledon and the US Open were the best slam results for Williams, while Federer’s best was the final at Wimbledon), that question has already been partly resolved.

But on the men’s side, in particular Nadal (French Open, US Open champion) and Djokovic (Australian Open, Wimbledon) continue to be a class above the challengers.

Not since 2016 when Stan Wawrinka won the US Open and Andy Murray won Wimbledon has a player other than the big three men even looked like landing a grand slam.

Still, 2020 could be the year when they finally come back to the pack.

The highlight of the tennis year will as always be the four grand slams, while the Olympic tournament should be exciting in Japan, with live contenders from the home nation.

The year heats up with the Australian Open (January 20-February 2; defending champions: Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka) followed by the French Open (May 24-June 7; defending champions: Rafael Nadal, Ashleigh Barty), then Wimbledon (June 29-July 12; defending champions Djokovic, Simona Halep) and the US Open (August 25-September 13; defending champions: Nadal, Bianca Andreescu).
Wedged in there is the Olympic tennis tournament (Saturday, July 25-Sunday, August 2; defending singles champions: Andy Murray, Monica Puig).

Table tennis

Any Olympic year is a big year in table tennis and Tokyo will be the focus for the world’s best, many of whom hail from China.

The Chinese won all four gold medals on offer in this sport – men’s and women’s singles and teams – at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

They will again be favoured to dominate. As at December 2019, China had the top four men in the ITTF world rankings – Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong, Ma Long and Lin Gaoyuan – and six of the top seven women.

However, put a big watch on the locals as Japan are ranked second in the teams event in women’s and men’s competition. They will be led by No.5-ranked male Tomokazu Harimoto, a teenage phenomenon who only turns 17 in June 2020! Harimoto is the son of former Chinese professional players Zhang Yu and Zhang Ling. Japan also have a young sensation in the women’s events in Mima Ito, who was ranked fourth at the time of writing. They are certain to receive fanatical support from their home crowd.

Golf

For golf fans, the big question of the year may well be whether veteran Tiger Woods can defend his title at the Masters. It was a major surprise when Woods turned back the clock to win the green jacket last year.
The first men’s golf major of the year, of course, is the US Masters (April 9-12, Augusta National; defending champion: Tiger Woods), followed by the US PGA Championship (May 14-17, TPC Harding Park, San Francisco; defending champion: Brooks Koepka), then the US Open (June18-21, Winged Foot, Mamaroneck, New York; defending champion: Gary Woodland) and finally the British Open (July 16-19, Royal St George’s, Sandwich, England; defending champion: Shane Lowry).

Golf will again feature at the 2020 Olympics, with the tournament for men and women to be played at Kasumigaseki Country Club, a private course in Saitama.
Justin Rose (Great Britain) is the defending men’s champion, while Inbee Park won gold for South Korea at Rio in 2016, the first time golf had been played at the Olympics since 1904.

Another highlight is the Ryder Cup (September 25-27, Whistling Straits, Haven, Wisconsin; defending champion: Team Europe). Steve Stricker (Team USA) and Padraig Harrington (Team Europe) will captain their respective teams.

On the women’s tour, the five majors take pride of place: the ANA Inspiration (April 2-5, Mission Hills CC, Rancho Mirage, California; defending champion: Ko Jin-young); US Women’s Open (June 4-8 , Champions Golf Club, Houston, Texas; defending champion: Lee Jeong-eun); KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 23-28, Aronimink Golf Club, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania; defending champion: Hannah Green); The Evian Championship (July 23-26, Evian Resort Golf Club, Evian-les-Bains, France; defending champion: Ko Jin-young); and the Women’s British Open (August 20-23, Royal Troon, Scotland; defending champion: Hinako Shibuno).

Ice hockey

The Stanley Cup finals of North America’s National Hockey League (October 2, 2019-June 2020; defending champions: St Louis Blues) roll around mid-year.

While there are many strong leagues worldwide, from a gambling perspective the saturation coverage of the NHL makes it No.1 in ice hockey. The 2018-19 runners-up the Boston Bruins are the bookies’ favourite to go one better this time, though it’s a wide market, with so much of the season still to unfold.

All eyes will turn to Switzerland for the men’s 2020 IIHF World Championship (May 8-May 24; defending champions: Finland) and Canada for the women’s equivalent (March 31-April 10; defending champions: USA).

Motor sport

The Formula One season gets under way in Melbourne on March 15 with the Australian Grand Prix. British driver Lewis Hamilton is the defending champion and he is rated odds-on with most bookies to capture his fourth F1 drivers’ championship in a row and his seventh overall. The 2020 season is the longest in F1 history with 22 GPs between March and November.

The MotoGP season begins with the Qatar GP on March 8, which is the first of 20 races for the series, with the final event in November. Six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez of Spain again looms as the man to beat.

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