The World Cup officially got under way Thursday in Russia, and casual soccer fans in the US might need a disappointing reminder when they check the schedule: Team USA failed to qualify for the first time since 1986. And that, as the AP explains, is a huge challenge for Fox, which reportedly paid $400 million for the broadcasting rights. The story focuses on the mission of lead broadcasters John Strong and Stuart Holden, both 32. "You are acutely aware there are going to be people watching these games that have not watched much soccer in the preceding year, perhaps the preceding four years," says Strong. For those who plan on tuning in:
- The basics: NPR has a good primer for casual and non-casual fans alike of who, what, and when to watch. The favorites are Germany and Brazil, and the tournament won't finish until July 15.
- 13 star players: Vox has a list of 13 players to watch, including Lionel Messi of Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, along with some lesser-known names such as Son Heung-min of South Korea.
- Why did the US miss out? The Ringer lays out the story in a lengthy expose, finding that it was "the culmination of nearly a decade of mismanagement that broke the team’s spirit and condemned them to failure."
- 32 teams: The Wall Street Journal provides a look at each of the 32 teams in the tournament, including their groups, rankings, and prospects of advancing.
- The host: Russia's team is pretty bad and probably won't advance, but hosting the tournament is still a huge PR victory for Vladimir Putin, explains the Economist.
- Looking ahead: Team USA might be reeling right now, but the fact that the US will host the 2026 tournament along with Canada and Mexico might be the first step toward healing the "fractured" US soccer world, writes Jeff Carlisle at ESPN.
(Read more World Cup