Quick Introduction: How the World Cup Works
With the World Cup always around the corner, you may be wondering how the World Cup works. The World Cup occurs every four years in the months of June and July and each year is played in a different host country. The World Cup draws between 260 million and 400 million television viewers, making it the most popular sporting event in the world.
Qualifying Matches Qualifying matches are an important part of how the World Cup works. Thirty-two nations compete in the World Cup and qualifying matches are played to determine which nations will earn the privilege of participating. The globe is broken up into six different qualifying regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, Oceania, and North and Central American and Caribbean. The matches played within each region were determined by a draw. For example, in the 2010 World Cup Africa will send six teams, including the host South Africa who qualifies automatically; Asia will send five nations; Europe will send six nations; Oceania will send one nation, depending on a playoff against a nation from the Asia group; four teams will be sent from South America with the possibility of a fifth, and North America, Central America and Caribbean will send four teams. The qualifying process takes over a year and is an exciting part of how the World Cup works.
Grouping After the 32 teams have qualified for the World Cup, a second drawing takes place to determine which group each team will be in. The teams are randomly assigned to one of eight groups, lettered A through H, as well as a position within the group.
Group Play The World Cup works through round-robin play when it begins and all matches are played within the groups. Teams are awarded three points for a win, one point for a tie, and zero points for a loss. The two teams from each group with the greatest number of points will advance to the next round. Group play is an exciting part of how the World Cup works.
Round of Sixteen The teams that advance from group play begin playing in the round of sixteen. Each team will play the team that advanced either ahead of them or behind them from the neighboring group. For example, the first place team from Group A will play the second place team from Group B. The World Cup works in a sudden-death manner in the Round of Sixteen and teams that lose will not play again in the tournament.
Quarterfinals After the Round of Sixteen, the World Cup works to progressively eliminate teams until only the champion remains. The eight teams that advance from the Round of Sixteen will play one another based on their position in the Round of Sixteen.
Semi-finals The four teams that advance from the quarter-finals will play in semi-final matches to determine who will play for the World Cup, and who will play in the 3rd place match.
Finals Winner takes all and will be world champion for the next four years. The losers of the semi-final matches will play a match to determine 3rd and 4th places.