From November 20 to December 18, the sports world will be transfixed on the FIFA World Cup 2022, the premier event in soccer, held every four years. Thirty-two men’s national teams from across the globe will compete in Qatar, the host country. (The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by three countries – the U.S., Canada, and Mexico – with matches in 11 American cities.)
To compile a list of the 50 best men’s soccer national teams – out of a total of 200 belonging to FIFA and 11 that are affiliated – 24/7 Tempo looked at FIFA’s own ranking. FIFA, or the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the professional soccer’s world governing body. (In 2015, the organization was involved in one of the scandals that rocked the sports world.)
National teams are ranked according to a complicated system based on the sum of points each has been awarded for all senior (or A-level) matches over the previous four years. The points are determined according to whether each match was a win or a draw, how important the match was (with World Cup matches worth more, for instance, than friendly games), and how strong the opposing team and its confederation were.
Note that of the 50 teams listed, 18 did not qualify for the tournament. The 32 that did were split into eight groups of four teams each, decided by a drawing held in Qatar. As the host country, Qatar will kick off the event with the World Cup’s premiere match, playing against Ecuador. However, Qatar’s odds of winning the Cup are low. It only qualified for the World Cup because it is hosting the event.
This year, the best odds go to the highest ranking team, five-time winner Brazil – but no team is a sure bet, and anything can happen when the teams take the field. (Three soccer players, one of them a woman, number among the 40 most successful athletes of the 21st century.)
One thing is for certain: A lot of eyeballs will be glued to the matches. According to FIFA, a combined 3.572 billion viewers tuned in for the 2018 event. That number included 3.262 billion catching at least one minute of the coverage at home on TV, with another estimated 309.7 million viewing the matches on digital venues, or public areas, such as bars or restaurants. By comparison, NBC reported that this year’s Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals took in 112.3 million viewers on live TV as well as digital platforms.
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