The 2018 FIFA World Cup is underway in Russia (a country you can visit on tour!) and since almost half of the world’s population tunes in, there’s no doubt you’ve been hearing a lot about it lately. But that doesn’t mean that the process of finding the next World Champion soccer team is a simple one. Read on to learn what it’s all about.
How it works
While the host nation is automatically granted a place in the World Cup, close to 200 other countries compete over the course of three years to be one of the 32 teams that make it to the “group stage.”
Then, these 32 teams are broken into eight groups of four. Each team plays the other three teams in its group once. Three points are awarded for each win, one point for a tie and zero for a loss. The 16 teams that earn the most points at this stage will advance to the single-elimination round. In this round, no ties are allowed—if a match ends in a draw, two extra 15-minute periods are played. If the score is still tied after the extra 30 minutes, five players from each team compete in a shootout.
Still feeling lost? Here’s all you need to know: As the tournament progresses, 16 teams become eight, then four, then two, and finally a champion is crowned.
Who to root for
If you’ve been keeping tabs on the tournament, you probably noticed that neither the U.S. nor Canadian teams qualified. So, we made this quick guide to picking a new favorite team based on your travel wish list.
If your travel wish is…
Hanging out at the beer hall, root for: Germany. They’re the reigning World Cup champs and are ranked #1 to win it all again this year.
Museums, monuments, and jamón, root for: Spain. The team is known for its distinctive style, called tiki-taka, which means the players use short passes to keep the ball in possession.
Dancing the tango, root for: Argentina. Lionel Messi, arguably one of soccer’s biggest stars, is the team’s standout player—and this is his chance at a first World Cup title.
Waving ‘ello to the Queen, root for: England. The first and last time the team won was against West Germany in 1966—but could this be their year?
Chasing waterfalls, root for: Iceland. It’s the island nation’s first time at the World Cup! Also, their official chant is called the “Viking Thunder Clap”—try it for yourself at home.
Are you watching the FIFA World Cup this year? Tell us your favorite team in the comments!