Here's Why Soccer Match-Fixing Is Not a US Problem

Director of Europol Rob Wainwright.
Georges Gobet | AFP | Getty Images
Director of Europol Rob Wainwright.

Ever hear of Europol? If you're an American, probably not.

It is the European Union's enforcement arm, and it is the organization that alleges match-fixing in soccer is a global problem, involving 680 matches — including 380 in Europe.

The cases involve more than a dozen countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. But not the United States.

The question is why not?

First of all, Americans gamble ... a lot ... but they don't gamble on soccer.

"If there's action, there's very little," said sports economist Dr. Pat Rishe. "Put it this way, the NBA and NHL take up only about 10-percent of sports betting. Football is 70-percent. College hoops and baseball account for about 10, and that leaves about 10-percent for miscellaneous."

Who knows what percentage soccer is in the "miscellaneous" category, but the odds are that it's a small amount. Put it this way, a decent-sized bet on MLS would still out like a rat in a snake's throat.

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"In Europe, you have jersey sponsors of gambling websites. It's just something they do," said Scott Minto, Director of the Sports MBA program at San Diego State University. "We don't do that here."

Minto's point is that gambling, despite the explosion of casinos over the last decade, isn't as embedded and accepted in mainstream America as it is in other parts of the world.

The MLS, though, isn't taking chances. In a statement, they told CNBC that the league is enrolled in an early warning system that monitors gambling in Las Vegas.

However, since we live in a world of cyberspace and offshore betting, that is not enough.

Next season, the league will ban phones and electronic devices from the locker room 60-minutes before the match begins, all the way through the game's completion.

"While we have faith in the integrity of those associated with MLS, we will not ignore what has already transpired around the world," the league said in an email. "We are not so naive as to think we are immune."

As for the action on the field, when it comes to temptation, players might not make THAT much money in Major league Soccer, but that's not the only thing to look at when assessing the temptation to affect an outcome.

The average salary in Major League Soccer was $154,852 last season. But that number is skewed by Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, David Beckham and Landon Donovan, who make a combined $19 million. The players don't make much, but they're making more than most Americans.

Minto also pointed that most U.S. players went through the college system, so they have degrees. The allure of a mid-sized payout simply isn't worth the risk, Monto says. An entire career beyond soccer could be ruined, and most don't consider professional soccer a set-for-life endeavor anyway.

Of course, none of that means the match-fixing scandal isn't a concern. Just that it seems to be a non-issue on American soil.

"When you start thinking about how many national professional leagues and teams and matches there are across the world, it opens up the floodgates," Minto said. "Where the economy might not be great, where the money is not great, the temptation is there."

—By CNBC's Brian Shactman; Follow him on Twitter: @bshactman