World Cup 2014 explainer

The quadrennial soccer tournament had nearly a billion viewers in 2010. Here’s what you need to know to watch Brazil 2014.

By Richard Hayes and Nathan Cushing

The quadrennial soccer tournament had nearly a billion viewers in 2010. Here’s what you need to know to watch Brazil 2014.

What is the World Cup?

Every four years a large chunk of the world shows a dramatic decline in productivity and healthy relationships as attention turns to the pinnacle of soccer tournaments, which started in Uruguay in 1930, and rotates host countries. The 2014 World Cup takes place in Brazil and runs from June 12th – July 13th.

In simplest terms, the FIFA1 World Cup is a soccer tournament in which every nation is invited. Sort of.

Although everyone is invited, there are only 32 spots at the table. A team earns their spot by playing a series of games in their nation’s global region. The US, for example, plays in CONCACAF. There are five other regions that cover the globe, and it takes about three years (!!!) for the individual regions to determine (through play) which teams go to the World Cup.

How is the World Cup organized?

The first part of the tournament is called Group play. Every team will play the other teams in the group once. Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. To move on in the tournament a team must finish in the top two of their group (i.e. have the most points).2

The next step is called the Round of 16. From here on out, the tournament becomes single-game elimination. If games are tied at regulation, two 15-minute halves are played, and if it’s still tied after that, it goes to penalty kicks, which are INCREDIBLY dramatic!

Doesn’t America suck at soccer?

Nope. While we don’t possess the soccer prowess of countries like Germany, Brazil, Italy, and others, the US has qualified for its seventh consecutive World Cup (here’s a cool animation on the US’s World Cup history).

Coaching the national team is Jürgen Klinsmann. He was one Germany’s best strikers in the 1990s and was on the West German team that won the 1990 World Cup. Not only is he bringing his playing success to the US national team, he’s trying to (re)build America’s overall soccer system.3 He also flies helicopters in his spare time, so he’s got that going for him, too.

Many of the players on the national team play in Major League Soccer, the US’s top tier soccer league. Now in terms of quality of play, MLS isn’t quite in the same league as other top leagues.4 BUT! MLS gets better each year. And as a sign of MLS’s growing significance, the league recently inked an eight-year, $720 million television deal with ESPN, Fox, and Univision.

So America may not be great at soccer (yet), but we definitely don’t suck at it. And we’ll need every bit of talent we have to get out of one of the toughest groups, Group G, which is called “The Group of Death.”

What does “Group G” look like?

United States of America

  • Nickname: The Yanks
  • Best Finish: 3rd place in 1930 (followed next by reaching the Quarterfinals in 2002)
  • Who/what to watch: Jozy Altidore will need to score with much more regularity than he has in the past year. The back line will keep many US fans nervous, especially any attacks coming in off the wings. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann won the World Cup with the Germans in 1990 and served as their national coach in 2006 where he led a young German team to a third place finish.


  • Nickname: The Black Stars
  • Best Finish: Round of 8 in 2010
  • Who/what to watch: The Ghanian team is one of the best teams out of Africa and are responsible for sending the US packing in the last two World Cups. Their forward, Asamoah Gyan, still gives US fans nightmares. He can definitely give us more.


  • Nickname: Seleção das Quinas or simply A Selecção (Selection)
  • Best Finish: 3rd place in 1966
  • Who/what to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best active soccer players in the world. He’s a rockstar. When he’s not playing soccer, he’s posing with his model girlfriend for magazine covers. But Ronaldo’s facing an injury, the severity of which still isn’t clear. It was bad enough that he didn’t play in Portugal’s last friendly before the World Cup. Even with a hobbled striker, the speed of the Portuguese team may prove deadly for a plodding US defense.


  • Nickname: Nationalelf (National Eleven)
  • Best Finish: Three-time World Cup champions, most recently in 1990
  • Who/what to watch: This team has been bit by the injury bug leading up to the World Cup, but is also one of the deepest teams in the tournament. They’re ranked second in the world by FIFA, and the general expectation is for them to win Group G and go really, really far into the tournament. There’s not enough space in this article to list all their weapons.

Sounds awesome! Where should I watch games?

All 64 matches of the World Cup will be in HD on ESPN, ESPN 2, ABC, and Watch ESPN.

But if you really want to experience the glory that is World Cup soccer–the chanting, clapping, and cheering–here are a few places to check out:

Outdoor viewing party

Richmond gets a bonafide free outdoor viewing party on Sunday, June 22nd. A massive 20’ x 12’ LED screen will light up at 11:30 AM for the Belgium vs. Russia match, followed by Korea Republic vs. Algeria. The final game of the day is at 6:00 PM when US takes on Portugal.

Head to Grace and Foushee streets (behind the downtown YMCA) to join beer and food trucks, along with over 3,000 fans, to watch a day’s worth of soccer.

Gus’s Bar & Grille

This is the official viewing spot for the American Outlaws Richmond Chapter, local supporters of the US team. BuzzFeed recently named Gus’s the best bar in Virginia to watch the World Cup. Needless to say, this place will fill up fast, so make sure you get there way early, and be ready to get cozy with strangers.

  • 2701 W. Broad Street

Penny Lane Pub

They’ve been hosting World Cup match gatherings since the 1970s. It’s a great place to watch the US, England, and every other country play.

  • 421 E. Franklin Street

Rosie Connolly’s Pub

One of the most authentically British pubs in the city, Rosie Connolly’s is also a great spot for Anglophiles. They’ll broadcast the England vs. Italy game on Saturday, June 14th at 6:00 PM.

  • 1548 E. Main Street

Here are some other places to check out

photo by Erik Daniel Drost

  1. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the head of all international soccer. John Oliver has a great takedown of how just how awful FIFA can be. 
  2. If two or more teams are tied after playing all their games their position is decided by goal differential, which is simply goals scored minus goals allowed. 
  3. Here’s a really good profile of the coach, and here’s another one
  4. Premier League (Great Britain), La Liga (Spain), and the Bundesliga (Germany). 
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