Your Guide to the 2018 FIFA World Cup

- 64 matches. 32 teams. 11 cities. 1 winner.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup has arrived.

Every four years, the world is enthralled by one of the most prestigious sporting events in history. From June 14 through July 15, teams around the globe will compete in 64 matches at 12 venues located in 11 cities across Russia until a winner is crowned 2018 FIFA World Cup champion.

Let's address the elephant in the room - Team USA will not be competing in the 2018 World Cup. In a devastating blow, the boys in red, white and blue lost their berth in astonishing fashion this past fall with a 2-1 loss to 99th-ranked Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. team could've still survived the loss if Honduras and Panama both lost as well. They did not, and for the first time since 1986, Americans will not be represented in the World Cup.

But there's still plenty to see, teams to root for, and storylines to follow - we'll show you throughout FOX's coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This map shows which countries qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup (dark blue) and which did not (light blue.) The black indicates countries that were banned from competing and the white indicates countries that are not members of FIFA.

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HOW THE CUP WORKS

It begins with qualification. Starting in 2015, countries were narrowed down through a series of tournaments divided up by region:

  • 5 teams from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC): Australia, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.
  • 3 teams from the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF): Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama.
  • 5 teams from the Confederation of African Football (CAF): Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia.
  • 5 teams from the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL): Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay.
  • 13 teams from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA): Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

No countries from the Oceania Football Confederation (OCA) qualified. Russia automatically qualifies as it's the country hosting the Cup, so that makes 32 teams.

After qualifying teams are selected, next comes the draw. Teams are divided into four pots according to their ranking in descending order. Because Russia is hosting, they're number 1 in Pot 1. It looks like this:

 

 

 

Okay, now stay with us here: Next, the 8 teams in the first pot, so the top teams plus the host city (Russia), are divided into 8 groups, Group A through Group H. 

Then the rest of the teams are drawn and placed in groups. This all matters because it drastically affects a team's chances of making it out of their group. For example, a common phrase used in the World cup is a Group of Death -- meaning a really difficult draw. This mostly affects mid-level teams who are up against two high ranking teams and unlikely to survive the group and move onto the next rounds.

These are this year's groups:

 

 

Each team in a group plays a match against the three other teams in its group. The bottom two teams go home, while the top two finishers move on to the knockout stage -- a 16-team bracket. This becomes a single-elimination tournament like March Madness.

After the first round, teams are eliminated down to eight, then after the second around, down four, and then down to two. The final game will be played July 15 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow - winner walks away with the World Cup.

HOW CAN YOU WATCH

FOX has you covered with a range of ways you can tune into the cup, from your TV to your mobile phone. Click here for an list of dates and times of each match, and which network it will air on.

You can find:

  • All 64 matches live on FOX Sports, 38 matches on broadcast TV and 26 matches on FS1.
  • Near-live video highlights on Twitter.
  • Live game capabilities on FOX Sports GO, at FOXSports.com, through the FOX Sports and FOX Sports GO apps on iOS and Android, and on connected devices including Apple TV, Android TV, FireTV, Roku, Chromecast and Xbox One.
  • Live Matchday shows on Twitter, a 30-minute live show with Rachel Bonnetta each match day for a total of 27 shows with guests including Rob Stone, Kate Abdo, Alexi Lalas, Landon Donovan and more.
  • Publisher Stories on Snap Chat, which are the magazine-like stories that include video, artwork, text and motion graphics.
  • FIFA World Cup "Our Stories" to feature fan reactions from across the world.
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