World Cups capture the imagination of the public like few other events. Even the most casual football observer can be swept up in the excitement of a national team when the tournament only comes around once every four years.
The World's Biggest Football Tournaments
Football is the most universally recognized and watched sport in the world, and every year millions around the globe tune in to watch the largest football events. Here are the some of the most popular events that you might be familiar with.
FIFA World Cup
Undoubtedly the greatest football tournament in the world, it just doesn't get any better (or bigger) than this! Millions of viewers tune in to watch the World Cup, truly the biggest spectacle not only in football but in all of sports. All countries in the world participate, and it occurs only once every four years. The 2018 World Cup will take place in Russia in June and July.
This tournament gathers the best of the best in the world, athletes at the pinnacle of their careers and performing at their peaks. Stars are born here, heroes are discovered, breathtaking goals are scored, and it is thrilling to see who will rise to the occasion on the world's biggest stage. It's a shame that they don't play every year, but perhaps that scarcity and rarity is part of the appeal of the tournament.
Qualifying tournaments are held up to three years before the World Cup, and take place all over the world. 32 teams are chosen to represent their countries at the World Cup, which consists of a group stage (8 pods with 4 teams each) and a knockout stage to follow. Brazil boasts the most World Cup victories with 5 championships, followed by Italy with 4 and Germany with 3 titles.
Also known as UEFA Champions League or European Champion Clubs' Cup, this tournament features the best teams from each European country, and is essentially the club championship for European leagues. With some of Europe (and the world's) best players, this is consistently one of the most exciting football tournaments for fans all over the world.
After a stringent qualification process, only 32 teams make it to the tournament round robin stage. They are divided into 8 pods with 4 teams each, and the top 2 from each pod advance to the next round to battle in single elimination matches until a winner emerges. Real Madrid is the most successful franchise to date, with 9 championships and 3 runner-up finishes.
This South-American tournament is held annually and is considered one of the finest club football tournaments in the world. Each country is represented by a minimum of three teams, with larger football countries Brazil and Argentina sending five teams. The current format has 6 stages, with 6 teams passing through this stage to join 26 others in stage 2. Again, they are divided into 8 pods of 4 teams each, and play in the group stage until there are 16 teams left for the knockout stage. Argentina has always fared well in the Copa Libertadores, with the Independiente squad winning 7 titles and Boca Juniors taking home 6 championships.
Africa Cup of Nations
Africa's largest tournament is growing in popularity as more and more African teams are producing quality football squads. The Africa Cup of Nations is held every 2 years, with 16 teams forming 4 pods of 4 teams each. The top 2 from each pod advance to the knockout stage. Egypt has won 7 titles, with Ghana and Cameroon following behind with 4 wins each.
With plenty of large tournaments throughout the world featuring the very best athletes the game has to offer, football fans have plenty to be excited about year-round.