What Is The FIFA World Cup?

the fifa world cup

The World Cup, formally known as the FIFA World Cup, is a tournament that happens every four years to decide which national team shall be declared the world champion of soccer. In its almost 100-year history, the FIFA World Cup has become the most popular sporting event in the world, with billions of international viewers for every iteration of the tournament.


fifa world cup history

The FIFA World Cup was first organized in the early 1900s by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). On July 13, 1930, the first matches of the tournament were played in Montevideo, Uruguay, with France defeating Mexico and the United States defeating Belgium. On July 30, 1930, the first World Cup final was held, and the host nation Uruguay defeated Argentina 4-2 in a rematch of their infamous 1928 Olympic gold medal game.

Since its inaugural match in 1930, the FIFA World Cup has been held every four years except during World War II. Like many major international sporting events, it is divided into sectional tournaments leading ultimately to a final elimination event. In this final event, 32 national teams compete until two teams are left to fight in the final title match. Referees for these matches are selected from lists submitted by each national association, and all players, unlike in Olympic soccer, are not limited by any age requirements or amateur playing status. These two factors make the FIFA World Cup often considered the greatest competition between any of the world’s best players.

Though it usually refers to the tournament itself, the term the FIFA World Cup is also the name of the literal trophy given at the end of the tournament to the winning national team. The trophy awarded from the inaugural 1930 game until the tournament in 1970 was the Jules Rimet Trophy. However, that cup was given permanently to Brazil for winning the 1970 World Cup tournament. Since then, a new trophy, now called the FIFA World Cup, has been given to the winner of each successive tournament final.


Due to the international enormity of the competition itself, qualifying for the FIFA World Cup is an elaborate process that begins shortly after the previous final tournament. For example, the qualifying matches for the 2022 FIFA World Cup began in early 2019, one to two months after the 2018 final.

All 211 FIFA member associations are allowed to compete in the FIFA World Cup. Who ultimately gets to the final 32-team elimination event is decided by the six confederations of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. These six confederations are the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). 

Though rules are eligible to change, since 2010, each federation has been allowed a prescribed number of national teams to send to the final rounds of the FIFA World Cup. As it stands, the AFC is allowed to send up to 5 teams from Asia, the CAF is allowed to send up to 5 teams from Africa, the CONCACAF is allowed to send up to 4 teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, the CONMEBOL is allowed to send up to 5 teams from South America, the OFC is allowed to send only 1 team from Oceania, and the UEFA is allowed to send 13 teams from Europe. In addition to these guidelines, the host country always participates in the final rounds of the FIFA World Cup.


What countries have won the FIFA World Cup?

Of the over two hundred countries that have participated in the qualifying round of the FIFA World Cup, only eight countries have won. The first country to win the cup was Uruguay in 1930. Since then, Brazil has won the final match five times, Germany and Italy have both won four final matches, Argentina and France have won twice, and England and Spain have won once.

Who has won the most FIFA World Cups?

The country that has won the most FIFA World Cups is Brazil, with five total wins. In 1958, they won their first cup against Sweden. In 1962, they defeated Czechoslovakia 4-1. In 1970, they won against Italy. Over twenty years later, in 1994, they defeated Italy again on a penalty kick. In 2002, they won their fifth World Cup against Germany.

Who won the FIFA World Cup in 2018?

France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In Moscow, they faced Croatia, the tournament’s infamous underdog. With a final score of 4-2, France won the FIFA World Cup for the first time since it hosted the 1998 games two decades earlier. Beyond the wild gameplay, the match was also considered remarkable because the French coach Didier Deschamp was a player in that 1998 match and returned to win now as a coach, a feat only seen twice before in the tournament’s long history.