The FIFA World Cup is one of the most popular and most-watched events across the entire sports calendar.
Taking place every four years, the World Cup pits the best soccer nations against one another to crown a champion of the sport.
While most players play for their club teams throughout much of the season, international soccer is also a major draw in the sport. Players who hail from the same nation all come together to compete for their country, with national pride at stake.
The World Cup, therefore, is the preeminent international soccer tournament, which features the best players around the globe. Major powers like France, England, Germany, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina will all take part, as will the United States, Canada and Mexico representing North America.
The Sporting News brings you all the basics to help casual fans enjoy one of the most popular sporting events the modern world has to offer.
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How does the World Cup work?
The FIFA World Cup is played every four years to crown the best soccer nation across the globe.
Each continent holds its own qualification format throughout the off years, and nominates a predetermined number of participants. Then, 32 qualified teams converge at the World Cup to play in a tournament to determine the global champion.
In the first round, known as the group stage, the 32 teams are broken down into eight groups of four. Each team plays the other three group competitors once each, earning three points for a win and one point for a draw. At the end of the group stage, the top two teams advance, while the bottom two teams are eliminated.
That leaves 16 teams to battle through a single-elimination tournament, often called the knockout stage, where there can only be one winner. All matches tied after 90 minutes will feature 30 minutes of extra-time followed by a penalty shootout if the score is still even. The only quirk to the otherwise standard knockout bracket is that the semifinal losers are slotted into a third-place match.
What does FIFA stand for?
FIFA is the global soccer governing body that organizes all professional soccer competitions internationally. They are the organizers of the FIFA World Cup.
The acronym stands for the French title “Federation Internationale de Football Association,” and the organization’s headquarters are in Zurich, Switzerland.
Currently, FIFA consists of 211 member nations from across the globe. The current president of FIFA is Gianni Infantino, who was elected to the position in 2016.
How many teams are at the World Cup?
While all 211 teams are eligible to reach the FIFA World Cup, they must all first progress through continental qualifying to identify which teams reach the World Cup tournament.
For the 2022 World Cup, there are 32 teams who have qualified for the final tournament in Qatar. They are broken up into eight different groups of four teams each, with the top two in each group advancing to the knockout stage.
However, this will be the final World Cup with 32 teams, as the 2026 World Cup will feature an expanded field of 48 teams.
How are the players picked?
Each national team’s head coach selects 26 players to take part in the World Cup.
The rosters had been restricted to 23 players for the last several World Cup tournaments, but that was expanded for 2022 after many coaches supported the increase.
One of the biggest jobs facing national team coaches is to select the players who will take part in the World Cup. They monitor all players eligible to play for their country, and use past performances combined with current club form to pick the 26 players they believe give them the best chance of success.
Players are eligible to play for any nation they hold a passport for and have “a clear connection” to based on either familial lineage or years spent in a country. For players who hold dual citizenship, they may choose which country to represent. They also may change allegiances once, via what is known as a “one time switch,” but once a player has either earned three competitive appearances for a national team before reaching 21 years old, or one appearance after reaching 21 years of age, they may no longer switch nations.
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Who are the favorites to win the World Cup?
This year, the betting favorite to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup is Brazil, who are considered to boast one of the deepest player pools in the world.
Defending champions France are considered strong contenders to repeat as well, but a number of injuries have left them with work to do. Also likely to push for the trophy are Argentina, who have a deep squad to support the legendary Lionel Messi.
England, who reached the semifinals four years ago, could also contend, as will European powers Germany and Belgium. The United States, ranked 16th in the world, are not considered likely to feature in the later stages of the tournament.
2022 FIFA World Cup betting favorites
Odds via BetMGM (USA) & Sports Interaction (Canada), pre-World Cup as of October 30, 2022.
Who’s the best player at the World Cup?
There are a number of players who could make an argument as the best in the tournament, but many will point to two aging greats of the game, Lionel Messi of Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal.
Messi is having the better club season, with Ronaldo struggling for playing time at Man United, but the Portuguese superstar is one of the most popular figures in the game and can still prove dangerous for the national team.
Others to watch include French duo Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe, who are both in great goalscoring form for their clubs. Neymar of Brazil, a teammate of Mbappe and Messi at Paris Saint-Germain, is also considered a strong contender.
Whoever has the best tournament will be awarded the Golden Ball, which is known as the tournament’s Best Player honor, similar to an MVP award. In 2018, Luka Modric was given the award as he surprisingly led Croatia to the World Cup final.
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2022 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball favorites
Odds via DraftKings (USA) & Sports Interaction (Canada), pre-World Cup as of October 30, 2022.
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How many games are at the World Cup?
With 32 teams slotted across eight groups of four, there are 48 group stage matches which will eliminate half the field and qualify the other half for the knockout stage.
In the knockout stage, there are 16 teams, meaning that 15 games must be played to eliminate all but one and leave just one team standing as the champion. Lastly, we must not forget the third-place game that is also penciled in just before the final is played.
In total, that means there are 64 games in total to take in at the FIFA World Cup.
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What games should I watch?
There are some great games already scheduled for the group stage portion of the tournament.
The one match that stands out above the rest is in Group E between European powers Spain and Germany on Sunday, Nov. 27, with the two top-10 ranked sides pulled into the same group.
Another match that will likely be a major talking point is that between England and the United States, which is scheduled for Black Friday. With the two nations holding a playful rivalry plus some past World Cup history, it is already one of the tournament’s most highly anticipated matchups.
In the knockout stage, it’s hard to know which teams will match up, as the participating teams must qualify via their group stage finish. Still, high-profile matchups that are possible in the Round of 16 include Argentina vs. France, Spain or Germany vs. Belgium, or Portugal vs. Brazil. Even if those don’t come off in the early knockout matches, the latter stages of the tournament almost always feature games which pit giants against each other.
The World Cup final, one of the most-watched sporting events around the globe, is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 18 and will take place at 10 a.m. ET, before the day’s slate of NFL games.
How do I watch the World Cup?
- Dates: Sunday, Nov. 20-Sunday, Dec. 18
- English-language TV channels: Fox, FS1, FS2
- Spanish-language TV channels: Telemundo, Universo
- Streaming: fuboTV, Fox Sports app, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, Universo Now, Peacock Premium
The 2022 World Cup will be televised in the United States in English by Fox Sports and in Spanish by Telemundo.
Fox, FS1, and FS2
The 2022 FIFA World Cup, which kicks off Nov. 20 in Qatar, will be broadcast in the United States in English by Fox.
Fox will spread the matches across its family of channels, including FS1 and FS2. While most of the channel designations are set, Fox does have the ability to switch its assignments around, particularly for the final round of group stage fixtures depending on which matches carry the most importance for knockout stage places.
Fox’s flagship play-by-play coverage will feature an A-Team of John Strong and Stu Holden. Other play-by-play broadcast teams include veteran JP Dellacamera paired with analyst Cobi Jones, Derek Rae paired with Aly Wagner, Ian Darke paired with Landon Donovan, and Warren Barton paired with Jacqui Oatley. Rules analysts Dr. Joe Machnik and Mark Clattenburg will be on hand to analyze refereeing decisions.
Fox’s in-game studio coverage will be anchored by Rob Stone, while Kate Abdo hosts the show FIFA World Cup Tonight. Lead studio analysts include Alexi Lalas, Clint Dempsey, Carli Lloyd, and Maurice Edu. Other appearing studio analysts will include Eni Aluko, Kelly Smith, and former NFL receiver Chad Johnson. Sideline reporters will include Jenny Taft, Rodolfo Landeros, and Geoff Shreeves, while Tom Rinaldi will be on hand as a feature reporter.
Telemundo and Universo
Meanwhile, Telemundo will be the home of all Spanish-language World Cup broadcasts in the United States. The only exception will come in the final round of group stage matches, when games are played simultaneously. For those matches, one will be pushed to Universo. All Spanish-language World Cup match broadcasts can be streamed on Peacock, which will air the first 12 matches of the tournament for free. Beginning Nov. 24, the remaining 52 will be available on Peacock Premium.
For Telemundo’s Spanish-language coverage, the lead play-by-play broadcaster will be none other than the legendary Andres Cantor, covering his 12th World Cup. He will be partnered with former Mexican national team player Manuel Sol. Other play-by-play broadcasters for Telemundo coverage include Copan Alvarez, Sammy Sadovnik, and Jorge Calvo. They will all be partnered with analyst Eduardo Bsicayart, who will be covering his fifth World Cup.
Telemundo’s studio coverage will be manned chiefly by Miguel Gurwitz, Ana Jurka, Carlota Vizmanos, and Carlos Hermosillo, plus analysis throughout the tournament from the likes of Diego Forlan, Miguel Herrera, Tab Ramos, Carlos Tenorio, Claudio Borghi, Fernando Hierro, and a host of other experienced names.
When is the next World Cup?
After the conclusion of the 2022 World Cup, fans will once again have to wait (almost) four years for the next major FIFA tournament.
The next World Cup will take place in the summer of 2026, and will be played across North America, with the United States, Mexico, and Canada serving as joint hosts. The World Cup will return to its usual summer schedule for that tournament, with this year’s winter tournament a departure from the norm.
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The host nations will all qualify automatically for the tournament, as is customary, so the United States already knows that it will take part in that showcase event four years from now.