1. It’s finally here: The World Cup.
2. It’s four weeks of soccer — this year in Brazil — to determine the best soccer nation in the world. And it’s going to get wild.
3. To get to the World Cup, teams had to qualify from their geographic region. After two years of qualifying matches, we’re left with 32 of the best teams in the world.
4. They’ve been randomly divided into eight groups of four teams. Each team will play the other three teams in their group once.
5. Each win is worth three points, and a tie is worth one. The top two teams in each group advance to the elimination rounds.
6. From there, the winners move on until there are only two teams left.
7. Since you can’t tie in the elimination rounds, a game tied at the end of 90 minutes goes to a 30-minute overtime. If neither team has scored in that time, the teams go to a shootout.
8. So who could win it all this year? Germany’s got a good shot, as always. So do Argentina and Spain.
9. And never count out the Italians, who won it all in 2006, or the Dutch, who were runners-up in 2010.
10. But the favorite has to be the host country, Brazil.
They’ve got stars like Neymar and David Luiz, and the pressure’s on them to win their first title in 12 years.
11. What about England? They haven’t won a World Cup since 1966 — and odds are, they’ll find another heartbreaking way to lose this year.
12. And how about the Americans? The U.S. team has an incredibly tough group: They’ll play Ghana, Portugal, and Germany. If they advance to the elimination rounds, it’s a huge step for U.S. soccer.
13. It’ll be easy to find the games. Every match will air on ESPN, and will stream on WatchESPN.com.
14. And since the World Cup is being held in Brazil, the matches will all start in the afternoon or early evening in the U.S.**
**If you’re on the East Coast. If you’re on the left coast, there will be a few 9 a.m. kickoffs — but that’s still better than those 5 a.m. games in South Africa, right?