Everything You Need To Know About The 2018 World Cup

Matches kick off Thursday in Russia. Get the schedule, teams to watch and more.

This year is jam-packed with exciting sporting events.

We started off 2018 cheering for the athletes in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Next up is the FIFA World Cup, the most prestigious soccer event in the world. Even though the U.S. team missed out on a spot in the tournament, here are 25 fun facts to get you in the World Cup spirit and maybe catch soccer fever.

The Tournament Spans A Whole Month

The games start June 14 and don’t wrap up until July 15!

world cup match photo
Getty Images | Ashley Allen

Russia Is Hosting

This year’s games will be played across the massive country, from Kaliningrad to Ekaterinburg. That means games in four different time zones. Here’s the match schedule.

russia world cup stadium photo
Getty Images | Lars Baron

It Only Happens Every Four Years

If you don’t catch a match this year, your next opportunity to tune in to the men’s World Cup isn’t until 2022. Meanwhile, the women will play their next World Cup in 2019.

world cup players photo
Getty Images | Marcelo Endelli

Don’t Call It Soccer

In the U.S. we know the sport as soccer, but you’d be better off calling it football, like the rest of the world, at least for the duration of the World Cup. Oh, and the games are called matches.

fifa world cup ball photo
Getty Images | Masahiro Ura

Two Countries Are Rookies This Year

Iceland and Panama each qualified for their first World Cup ever, but they face steep competition in their groups so tune in early to catch them. Iceland plays its first match June 16 against Portugal, while Panama starts June 18 against Belgium.

iceland photo
Getty Images | Matthew Horwood

Watch Iceland Play To See A Unique Cheer

It’s called a Viking clap, and that alone is worth tuning in to watch Iceland play.

iceland photo
Getty Images | Alex Livesey

Brazil Is The Only Country To Have Played In Every World Cup

The South American soccer powerhouse has competed in the 20 previous tournaments, and this year’s team is a real contender. It also boasts the most titles, with five.

brazil photo
Getty Images | Clive Rose

Thousands Of Volunteers Keep The World Cup Running

There will be about 15,000 volunteers at this year’s World Cup. People had to apply for those coveted positions way back in 2016, and FIFA says each volunteer must attend 1-2 days of training.

russia world cup photo
Getty Images | Shaun Botterill

A Clairvoyant Cat May Pick The Winners

Achilles, a deaf cat, has had an uncanny knack for accurately picking the winners of big soccer games in the past. He reveals his picks by eating food out of one of two bowls marked with flags for the competing teams.

cat photo
Getty Images | Christopher Furlong

One Player’s Age Will Set A Record

Essam El-Hadary is 45 years old and the goalkeeper for Egypt. When he makes his World Cup debut in Russia he will become the oldest player to ever compete in the tournament.

Essam El-Hadary photo
Getty Images | Alex Livesey

It Might Be The Last World Cup For Two Legends

Arguably two of the all-time great footballers, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, may both be playing in their final World Cup. Both players have yet to win a World Cup in spite of their finesse on the field.

messi ronaldo photo
Getty Images | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

There Will Be 64 Total Games

The tournament begins with a round-robin format. The two top teams from each group proceed to the knockout round until the final game decides the overall winner.

world cup qualifying photo
Getty Images | David Ramos

The Balls Being Used Are High-Tech

The Adidas balls used at the World Cup will have chips embedded in them. Each ball will unlock exclusive content for fans and will track performance metrics.

world cup match photo
Getty Images | Epsilon

The Host Nation Automatically Gets In

This year, Russia snagged the automatic qualifying spot. Meanwhile, the other 31 teams had to undergo a two-year qualifying process.

russia soccer team photo
Getty Images | Francois Nel

Several High-Profile Countries Missed Out

You won’t be able to root for the United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Chile or Cameroon this year.

american flag photo
Getty Images | Tom Pennington

The Knockout Stage Starts June 30

This is when the competition really heats up! The 16 teams who advance from the initial round robin will play do-or-die matches until only one remains.

world cup qualifying photo
Getty Images | Denis Doyle

The Final Match Is July 15 at 11 a.m. EST

The final two teams will play in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Only one will hoist the coveted trophy.

world cup trophy photo
Getty Images | Laurence Griffiths

Brazil And Germany Are The Favorites To Win

Germany is the current reigning champion but Brazil narrowly edged them out as the favorite, according to bookmakers ahead of the tournament.

brazil world cup match photo
Getty Images | Alexandre Schneider

The Referees Will Be Aided By Technology

This is the first World Cup in which referees will have Video Assistant Referees (VAR) to help avoid mistakes. They may chime in for match-breaking issues like goals, penalties or red cards, and there’s a lot of controversy surrounding their introduction.

soccer referee photo
Getty Images | Marco Luzzani

Watch Out For Red Cards

Players who commit an egregious foul receive a red card. That means they are sent off the field and can no longer play in that game and maybe more, depending on the severity of the infraction.

soccer red card photo
Getty Images | Ricardo Nogueira

This World Cup Is Socially And Politically Charged

The host nation, Russia, continues to fight allegations of doping as well as racism and human rights violations. Essentially, there’s much more than soccer to talk about surrounding the host nation.

world anti-doping photo
Getty Images | Chris Graythen

The World Cup Mascot Is A Wolf Named Zabivaka

The name means “the one who scores” in Russian. More than one million Russians voted on to help pick the name.

zabivaka photo
Getty Images | Laurence Griffiths

Watch Out For Thomas Mueller

The German player seems to know how to turn it on come tournament time. He scored five times in the last World Cup in Brazil and five times in the World Cup in South Africa. That puts him in the top 10 for all-time scoring in World Cup tournaments.

thomas mueller photo
Getty Images | Charles McQuillan

Russia Expects 1 Million Tourists For The World Cup

The host nation has introduced pricing regulations to help keep hotel rates reasonable for the visiting fans.

moscow photo
Getty Images | Spencer Platt

You Can Watch It Live On Fox

You don’t have to trek to Russia to keep up with all the action. Fox and Fox Sports will air games for American audiences and fuboTV will also stream matches online.

soccer world cup television photo
Getty Images | Mike Coppola