There are few things that bring all of the differing countries and cultures of the world together quite like sport. Whether it be the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics, or the FIFA World Cup, most countries are willing to put aside their differences for the spirit of competition. This summer happens to be the year for the Men’s FIFA World Cup, an international football (soccer) tournament featuring teams from the member associations of FIFA.
The World Cup takes place every 4 years. This year, 32 teams, divided up into 8 groups, will participate. How are World Cup groups determined? Lets take a look at the history of the World Cup and get to the bottom of it.
History of the World Cup
The World Cup as we know it today has its origins in early international football matches. Many believe that the unique tradition of international soccer competition began in Glasgow in 1872, with a soccer match between England and Scotland. The competition ended with a scoreless tie. This friendly game would inspire the first international football tournament in 1884, named the British Home Championship. Football (or soccer as it came to be known in the United States) continued to grow in popularity, and was recognized as a demonstration sport at the 1900 and 1904 Summer Olympics, though no medals were awarded.
The sport really took off in 1904 with the founding of FIFA. This organization worked to arrange international soccer tournaments outside of the Olympics. In 1908, the sport was finally officially recognized at the Olympics, however, it was seen as an event for amateur players only. Great Britain won the gold medal that year, as well as at the following Olympics in 1912.
After years of the sport being represented by amateurs in the Olympics, FIFA began once again seeking its own international tournament for the sport. In 1930, Uruguay, as the two-time official football world champions, was asked to host the very first World Cup. The national leaders of selected nations were invited to partake. On the day of the competition, 13 nations took part, representing South America, Europe, and North America. The host nation of Uruguay would ultimately defeat Argentina 4-2 in the final to become the first World Cup winner.
How Are World Cup Groups Determined?
After years of these tournaments showcasing some of the greatest teams and talents for both women’s and men’s soccer, the World Cup has become a national phenomenon. In the 2018 World Cup, 32 countries will be represented.
The draw for this year’s world cup took place on December 1, 2017, in Moscow, Russia. This year’s seeding for the World Cup looks a little different than it has all of the other years.
The teams were divided into four pots of eight, as they have always been, with one team selected from each pot to form a group. In previous years only the first pot was determined by ranking, listing the eight highest ranking teams based on their October FIFA ranking of the previous year. Every pot after the first would be random. However, for this year’s World Cup the seeding was a little more specific. The teams were once again divided into four pots of eight, but this year, each pot was determined by the national team’s October 2017 FIFA World Ranking. Pot one contained highest ranking teams and each pot decreased in ranking from two to four. The only exception was host team Russia, who was placed in the first pot despite rankings.
The final draws consist of eight groups labeled from A to H. The resulting groups turned out to be rather equal, as in past years, there is no group with more than two teams from any continental confederation.
The hopes of this new selection system is that both fans and players will have an eventful and competitive 2018 World Cup. Let’s watch and see!