A Non-Soccer Fan’s Guide To The World Cup


Mid-June can be pretty rough for sports fans in the United States.  The Stanley Cup Finals and NBA playoffs are wrapping up, the NFL is still in the off-season, and the MLB is past opening day but still too early for the playoffs.

However, once every four years, the World Cup comes around and the first game is this Thursday, June 14.  With nothing else to watch, I’m here to give you a beginner’s guide to the World Cup and how to make it look like you fit in with the soccer super-fan.  And especially since the United States were knocked out, I’ll give information on some other teams that make you sound like a soccer aficionado. Also an Italian head butted another player in the final one time so sometimes it can get crazy.

I think a good spot to start would be describing how the World Cup tournament process works.

32 teams qualify to make the Cup and are put into 8 groups of 4.  This is usually where people get confused.  Just think of it how the NFL puts teams into divisions. So there’s 8 divisions and the goal is to place in the top half after playing every team in your group once.  After that, the remaining 16 are put into a single elimination bracket and eventually there will be a winner.

So the good news is you know how the tournament works.  But the bad news is there’s so many different narratives, stats, history, strategies, and concepts that there’s no hope to learn it all.  However my solution to you is giving a couple open-ended questions that will get any die-hard soccer fan heated.

  1. “Is Messi or Ronaldo better?”

No fan sits in the middle when answering this so it will either 1, give you conversation with someone without having to say a word, so just shake your head and agree since you know nothing about soccer. But also 2, if someone else tunes and disagrees, all hell will break loose and you’ve got debate that you need to know nothing about.

2. “Do you think Messi and Argentina win it all?”

A BIG narrative in soccer is that Messi, while one of the best, can’t pul it together on the national level and win whether it’s the World Cup or Copa America. Just like the first question, asking this question will get a far left or right answer because there’s the chance a Ronaldo fan is listening.  In this case, refer to question as a follow up.

3. “Did you see______’s jerseys?! They look so good!”

To be honest, you don’t even need to look up what the jerseys look like because the super fan already knows.  Just make sure the team you throw in the question is in the tournament.  For some reason, soccer fans think any new jersey that’s released is “sick” no matter how bland or uncoordinated it looks.  Furthermore, I’ve figured out that soccer fans also assume whoever has the best looking jerseys will win the tournament. So whatever team they think has the best looking jersey, say you think they have a really good shot at winning it all and they will surely agree.

So there you have it. A guide for the fan who doesn’t watch soccer so you can look like you know what you’re talking about.  Stick to those questions and you’ll fit right in.

For all the soccer fans reading this, what do you think? Does this sound about right?

Also feel free to comment your own soccer fan clichés or expressions for the beginners out there.



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