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Kicking Off The World Cup

The teams of Russia and Saudi Arabia line up prior to their group A march which opens the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 14, 2018. (Victor Caivano/AP)
The teams of Russia and Saudi Arabia line up prior to their group A march which opens the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 14, 2018. (Victor Caivano/AP)

With Anthony Brooks

The World Cup kicks off in Russia. The U.S. team didn’t make the cut but there are plenty of teams to watch and politics to unpack.


Tariq Panja, global sports reporter for The New York Times, who covers FIFA extensively, and is in now Moscow covering the World Cup. (@tariqpanja)

Luis Miguel Echegaray, co-host of SI TV’s Planet Futbol, head of Latino/Spanish content with Sports Illustrated. (@lmechegaray)

Roger Bennett, co-host of the Men in Blazers weekly podcast and TV show on NBCSN about international soccer. (@rogbennett)

From The Reading List:

New York Times: World Cup 2026: United States, Canada and Mexico Win Bid to Be Host” — “The bid to bring soccer’s World Cup back to North America in 2026 was hatched in a Vancouver restaurant, announced in a New York City skyscraper and scrutinized by FIFA inspectors inside Mexico City’s cavernous Azteca stadium.

It was sold in countless other cities — Jakarta and Bangkok, Copenhagen and Lisbon, Jidda and Johannesburg — by officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada soccer federations who had teamed up in an unprecedented effort to share the world’s most-watched sporting event.

And on Wednesday in Moscow, the campaign finally ended when voters — persuaded by promises of record crowds, record revenues and, perhaps crucially, a record $11 billion in profit for FIFA, world soccer’s governing body — awarded the hosting rights to the 2026 World Cup to a combined bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada. The three countries will bring the tournament to North America for the first time since 1994, with the majority of the matches, including the final, being held in the United States.”

GQ: Un-American Football: Your Guide to Enjoying This Yankee-Free World Cup” — “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but brace yourself, America: The United States—the country that put a man on the moon and a Starbucks on every corner—did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

This dark truth may fill you with an overwhelming sense of astonishment, especially when you consider Iran, Panama, and Iceland (population 335,000) are among the teams that did make the cut. That astonishment will only swell when you learn that such traditional powers as Italy, Netherlands, and Chile also crashed out in slapstick style, yet no one has had the entrepreneurial nous to set up a World Cup NIT.

What America’s absence does mean is there will be no Landon Donovan–inspired moment of last-minute collective ecstasy; no new heroes forged, as when Tim Howard went all Terry Sawchuk on the entire nation of Belgium; no searing moment of epic failure, akin to striker Chris Wondolowski whiffing in the dying embers of a game with a wide-open goal, and a small fortune in future Wheaties-box endorsements, at his mercy.”

The 2018 World Cup – the global sports extravaganza – is underway in Russia: 32 soccer teams, 64 matches across 11 cities in 12 different stadiums – and a global TV audience of three billion people. And the Americans won’t be there because they didn’t qualify. But wait, just this week, the U.S. – along with Canada and Mexico – did win the bid to host the World Cup in 2026.

This hour, On Point: The World Cup today, and the bid to bring it back to North America tomorrow.

— Anthony Brooks

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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