The eyes of the world will fix their gaze upon Qatar next week when the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off on November 20.
The U.S. Men's National Team didn't make the cut in 2018, but they are back and better than ever for this year's tournament. The USMNT has the youngest roster in the field, but with stars Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie leading the way, there's even more excitement than ever before here in the United States.
Interest in American soccer has been steadily on the rise in recent years and it reaches a fever pitch during the World Cup. The U.S. Women's National Team put America on the map withinn the global soccer community with victories in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, but that's not the only reason why interest in soccer is piquing.
Thanks to the growth of the MLS and their big-name transfers, soccer's popularity is spreading across the country. The 2022 World Cup may be in the Middle East for the first time, but cities throughout the U.S. are preparing for watch parties, beginning with the USMNT's first match against Wales on November 21.
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For casual fans, who may only watch soccer every two years, here's everything you need to know about the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar:
Who is in the 2022 FIFA World Cup?
Let's start with the host nation. By now you're away of the decision to award the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar is embroiled in controversy. Located between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Oman, Qatar has never qualified for the World Cup, an honor bestowed upon every country that hosts the tournament. For that reason alone, there were tremendous financial benefits for the smallest host country in World Cup history to present the greatest sports tournament in the world. Enough reasons for FIFA to overlook the country's dreadful human rights record.
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Qatar's controversies have been plastered across the front pages of newspapers across the globe for the better half of the last decade. From their numerous allegations of worker abuse in constructing the new stadiums, to their abominable laws on the LGBTQ+ community, or the ever-growing whispers of corruption, bribery, and greed, the decision to award Qatar the World Cup will forever cast a long, dark shadow on the tournament and FIFA itself.
With that said, the World Cup tournament is normally held in June and July. For the first time in its history, the tournament was moved to November and December because the average temperature in Qatar in the summer is over 107 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature in the winter is still warm, but not as egregious, with daily temperatures recorded between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition to Qatar's automatic berth, 32 total teams will compete in the tournament. That number will grow to 48 teams four years from now when the tournament is held in North America, but for now it remains at 32.
Only eight countries have ever won the FIFA World Cup. Brazil has won a record five times, followed by Germany and Italy each with four titles. Argentina, France, and Uruguay have each won twice, and England and Spain have each won once.
Most of those teams are the heavy favorites to lift the World Cup trophy again this year. Brazil is once again the favorite to win it all, followed by Argentina, reigning champion France, and Germany. The United States have never won the FIFA World Cup and are currently +10000 by oddsmakers to win this year's tournament. What does that mean? It means if you place a bet of $100 for the USMNT to win the World Cup, and they miraculously do just that, you would win $10,000.
The 32 teams are placed in eight different four-team groups categorized from A to H. Each World Cup, the group that is considered to be the most difficult based on current FIFA rankings is labeled "The Group of Death." This year's "Group of Death," is widely considered to be Group B. Group B just so happens to featurs the United States, England, Wales and Iran.
Which Players Should You Watch For During the World Cup?
The best part of the World Cup is that players from across the globe get to showcase their talents on the world's stage. Throughout most of the year, these players suit up for their club teams, but wearing the kit (or jersey) of your country comes with a different feeling altogether.
During the year, Paris Saint-Germain Football Club features some of the best players in the world on the same team. Forwards Kylian Mbappe (France), Lionel Messi (Argentina), and Neymar (Brazil) will now be pitted against each other as the stars of the three frontrunners. Mbappe and Messi are the betting favorites to win the Golden Ball trophy, the award given to the best player in the tournament overall.
In addition to Mbappe, freshly-minted Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) is another superstar on the French roster to watch out for. England features Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, and Wales has recent MLS Cup hero Gareth Bale. Another star to keep an eye on is current Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski, who will take the pitch for Poland.
When Is the 2022 World Cup and Final Match?
As previously mentioned, the World Cup kicks off on Sunday, November 20 in a match between home nation Qatar and Ecuador. This match kicks off the group stage in which every team will play three matches. Three-to-four matches will take place every day thereafter until December 2.
Two teams from each group will advance to the Round of 16, also known as the "Knockout Round." Two elimination matches will take place each day for eight consecutive days, with the losing teams sent home and the winners advancing to the quarterfinals.
Four quarterfinal elimination matches lead us into the semifinals featuring the final four teams that will all play two more matches. The two winners of the semifinals advance to the final on Sunday, December 18, and the two losing teams will meet a day prior in the third-place match.
What else should I know about the World Cup?
The reported cost for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a record-breaking $220 Billion dollars. That's right, 220 Billion!FIFA is expected to take home over $7 Billion in revenue with another $20 Billion expected to help Qatar's economy.
Al Bayt Stadium, located in the city of Al Khor, is a 60,000-seat stadium that will host all the big matches, including the opening match, USA vs. England on November 25, and one of the semi-finals. It cost $847 Million to build. By comparison, LA's own SoFi Stadium, home of the reigning Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams, cost over $6 Billion to build. The World Cup Final will be held at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, home of the Qatar national team.
If you're reading this and would like to go to the World Cup, the average price for a round-trip ticket out of any major U.S. city to the Doha airport in Qatar is around $2,286 dollars. Hotels in the area on average about $200 dollars per night, with tickets for USA's first match against Wales currently costing $279 on average.
If you want to watch the World Cup, tune into FOX and FS1 for all the action. Fox Sports paid a reported $425 Million for the English-langue rights here in the United States, with NBC Universal's Telemundo holding the Spanish-language broadcasting rights. You can even stream the matches in Spanish at home with the Peacock App.
Once again, the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Sunday, November 20.