Kris Kahler stood to the right of a whiteboard on the turf field inside Midway’s indoor facility. Ready to break down the World Cup — from the basics of the dimensions and markings of a soccer field to the players and teams to keep an eye on during the tournament — the Midway head soccer coach couldn’t contain his excitement.
“It’s a very special event,” Midway head soccer coach Kris Kahler said. “Every four years different countries host it. It’s Russia’s turn this year. It’s what teams have been building for throughout qualifying tournaments. It’s an awesome month of just soccer.”
Super Bowl: 111 million
World Cup final: 3.2 billion
“Soccer is a growing sport in the United States, but it is the backbone of so many countries,” Kahler said.
Good news/bad news
Good news first, North America was picked to host the 2026 World Cup.
The bad news, the U.S. did not advance to the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
“Just because U.S.A. is a powerhouse and we’re probably one of the world leaders in everything imaginable, our men’s national team did not qualify which means we had games set up and we did not win enough,” Kahler said. “It’s very, very frustrating for the Americans.”
Neither did Italy
The four-time World Cup champs also failed to qualify for this World Cup.
How does the World Cup work?
Thirty-two teams are broken into eight groups with four teams to a group. The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage. From there it’s win or go home.
Panama and Iceland are in the World Cup for the first time. Iceland is also the smallest nation ever to qualify.
Number of years it’s been since a repeat World Cup champ. Brazil was the last to do it in 1958 and 1962. Germany, the reigning champs, look to break the streak.
“You scroll through Facebook and see all these memes,” Kahler said. “Portugal has (Cristiano) Ronaldo. Argentina has (Lionel) Messi. Brazil has Neymar. Germany has a team. They have some really solid soccer players. Maybe they’re at the level of the three names I just mentioned, but for the most part they are a unit.”
Betting odds for the favorite, Brazil, to win this year’s World Cup. Brazil is also the only nation to play in every world cup. It’s won the most titles (five).
“They’re supposed to win,” Kahler said. “They’re the New England Patriots, Alabama football program.”
Ranked No. 3 in the world. Lost 1-0 to Argentina in the quarterfinals four years ago. Favorite country to win out of those that have never won a World Cup title.
Where to watch
FOX and FOX Sports. The network dropped $400 million for the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Number of Middle East teams to qualify, the most ever from the region in World Cup history (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran).
A wolf called Zibivaka (The goal scorer).
Qualified the most times for the World Cup (16) without winning it
Dates to remember
June 30: Last 16
July 6: Quarterfinals
July 10: Semifinals
July 15: World Cup final
“Find a team. Get behind them. Support them through the thick and thin,” Kahler said. “If they don’t make it to the next round, find another team. Ride on the backs of some of these teams because it’s just so much fun. It’s like NCAA March Madness. You’ve got these guys that kind of sneak through these cracks into the round of 16. It’s fun watching them make this ride.”