Correction: Several readers astutely pointed out that the map below of qualifying teams in the 2014 World Cup had inaccurately labeled Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the English national team. Big faux pas! While part of Great Britain, these three are undoubtedly distinct from England — which has already been ousted from the tournament. Each have their own national teams (none qualified for the Cup this year), and for reasons of historic and cultural rivalry, often support England’s opponents. The map’s boundaries have been updated accordingly. And to all you Scots, Welsh and residents of Northern Ireland (and their die-hard fans): mea culpa.

Oh, so suddenly you’re a die-hard soccer fan? How convenient.

For many Americans (myself included), it’s easy to forget that there’s more to professional soccer than a month-long tournament every four years. In fact, the World Cup — the most popular sporting event on the planet — is the culmination of roughly two years of intense qualifying tournaments held throughout the world.

Courtesy of Imgur
Courtesy of Imgur

If you’ve found yourself unexpectedly hit with World Cup fever, but don’t know squat about how the tournament actually works, this SB Nation video is for you. It’s a great explainer, all except for its prediction that the U.S. will lose to Germany … which this blog in no way supports, endorses or condones (so much for objectivity)!

At right is the tournament roster. Below, an interactive map shows the 32 national teams in the Cup and their worldwide rankings, as determined by FIFA, the controversy-riddled association that administers the whole shebang. Below that, another SB Nation clip explaining stoppage time, that bewildering fixture of the “beautiful game.”

Click each country to see its worldwide FIFA ranking and World Cup grouping

World Cup Basics Explained Really Fast (Including the Slack Rules of Stoppage Time) 3 June,2015Matthew Green

  • Eamonn

    You map shows that the UK has a team. There’s no UK soccer team, there are separate teams for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Cem

    Map also shows Turkey as an Asian association. It is a UEFA (Europe) association.

  • KD

    Um, an you adjust this as your points explanation has predicted the first 2 US games correctly, but then has us losing to Germany. Noooo!

  • Jeffrey Roy Vss

    Please correct “UK” map to only showing England…numpty.


Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email:; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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