You may know the sport as football, soccer, or simply "the beautiful game." It's played worldwide, by rich people and poor people, in the freezing cold and tropical heat. And one tournament brings fans from around the world together: the FIFA World Cup.
FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football, organized the first World Cup tournament back in 1930. Since then, it has been held every four years, except for 1942 and 1946. Just try asking anyone who lives in Africa, Asia, or Europe. They will surely tell you that the World Cup is a big deal. FIFA estimates6 that one billion viewers worldwide watched the final match in 2014. That's enough to make it the most watched sporting event in the world.
Most viewers only pay attention to the final part of the World Cup tournament. But just getting that far is a long and difficult road for national teams. In the lead-up to the World Cup finals, smaller tournaments are held on six continents. These tournaments see up to 200 countries competing for a spot in the finals. Since there are so many teams, the tournaments end up taking a long time. Most of them kick off a full three years before the final game is even scheduled!
The final part of the World Cup involves 32 teams, and it lasts for about a month. It kicks off with the group stage. That’s when groups of four teams all play each other, with the top two moving on. Then comes the knockout stage, when any loss will send a team home. Eventually, there will be two teams left standing. These two will clash in a thrilling final match for the title of World Champion.
The title has gone to Brazil five times, which is more than to any other nation. Brazil is also the only nation to have played in every World Cup. Italy and Germany are tied for second, with four victories each. Then comes Uruguay and Argentina, which have both won twice. England, France, and Spain have won once.