How The World Cup Works: A Guide For Everyone (Qatar 2022)

Everything you could ever want to know about how the World Cup works in Qatar 2022 and then some.

The FIFA men’s World Cup is the most popular tournament for the world’s most popular game. The 22nd edition kicks off in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 20, 2022. You know it’s a big deal, but do you know how the World Cup works?

FIFA’s men’s World Cup is always evolving. Even if you knew how the World Cup worked in 2018, there are changes in store for the 2022 World Cup. Since its inception in 1930, the men’s World Cup has used many different formats; 2022 marks the seventh and final World Cup using a 32-team group stage followed by a 16-team knockout playoff. 

How the World Cup works is far from simple. Factors such as qualifying, roster size, yellow card accumulation and extra time can change from tournament to tournament. 

Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled a World Cup 2022 Guide For Dummies just for you, our favorite dummy reader. Read on to learn more than you ever wanted to know about how the World Cup works. 

How The World Cup Works 2022

Where Is The 2022 World Cup?

The 2022 World Cup will be hosted by Qatar, with all matches held in or around Doha, the nation’s capital. The United States finished second in the vote to host the tournament, and since then many of those who voted for Qatar have been accused of bribery and corruption. (More on that below.)

Why Is The World Cup In The Winter?

One question on everyone’s minds right now is: Why isn’t the World Cup in the summer, as it has been for the 21 prior editions?

The answer is pretty simple when you look at a thermometer and pretty dumb when you look at the big picture.

When FIFA awarded Qatar with the World Cup, the Middle Eastern nation promised to build air-conditioned stadiums. Even still, temperatures in the Qatar summers can reach 120 F. With that in mind, FIFA ultimately decided to move the competition out of the summer for the first time ever. 

Because of the 2022 Winter Olympics in February, FIFA ultimately decided to move the tournament to November-December 2022. This has thrown domestic leagues around the world — including most European leagues — into chaos, forcing them to completely change their schedules to accommodate the change. 

The World Cup will feel weird running from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18, but on the bright side, we’ll finally have good football to watch on Thanksgiving

How Do Teams Qualify For The World Cup?

Aside from Qatar qualifying automatically as host, 210 other FIFA member nations attempted to qualify for the World Cup. Each confederation held its own qualifying campaigns, the first starting in June 2019 and the last concluding in June 2022 with intercontinental playoffs. A few nations pulled out of qualifying for reasons including Covid-19 (North Korea) and volcanoes (Tonga), while Russia was kicked out of qualifying for invading Ukraine. 

In the end, 32 teams were left standing, and you can read about each one’s qualifying campaign here. Below is the distribution of World Cup berths by region.

World Cup Berths By Region

  • Asia (AFC) — 6
  • Africa (CAF) — 5
  • North & Central America (Concacaf) — 4
  • South America (CONMEBOL) — 4
  • Oceania (OFC) — 0
  • Europe (UEFA) — 13

World Cup Draw

The 2022 World Cup draw was held on April 1, 2022. Because of various delays, not every team had yet been determined, with placeholders used for the final three spots. Eventually, the 32 teams were finalized into their places on June 14 when Costa Rica defeated New Zealand 1-0 to become the final team to qualify for the World Cup.

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The United States is in Group B with England, Wales and Iran. The USMNT has a history of success against England in World Cup play, but not so much against Iran (here are five times the U.S. dunked on England in soccer). The Americans have never played Wales in a World Cup, and the teams last played in a 0-0 friendly draw in November 2020. 

The18 ranked the difficulty of each group here, declaring Group E (Germany, Spain, Japan, Costa Rica) the Group of Death.

World Cup Group Stage Format

The World Cup group stage format will once again feature eight groups of four, with every nation playing a round-robin against its three group opponents. The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout rounds.

Teams are awarded three points for a win and one point for a draw — if a group-stage match ends in a tie, no extra time is played. The final matches in each group are played simultaneously so no team can gain an advantage by knowing what it needs to advance. 

Tiebreakers, if necessary, are as follows: 1) points obtained in all group matches, 2) goal difference in all group matches, 3) number of goals scored in all group matches, 4) points obtained in matches played between the teams in question, 5) goal difference in the matches played between the teams in question, 6) number of goals scored in the matches played between the teams in question, 7) fair play points, 8) drawing of lots. Fair play points penalize teams for every yellow card (-1 point), indirect red card (-3), direct red card (-4) and yellow card and direct red card (-5). One hopes we never have to rely on the random drawing of lots to determine who advances from a group.

World Cup Knockout Stage Format

The 16 group winners and runners-up advance to the knockout stage, a single-elimination tournament — winner moves on, loser goes home. Teams in the same group are placed on opposite sides of the knockout bracket to ensure no rematches unless both reach the final. 

If a knockout-stage match is tied after 90 minutes, 30 minutes of extra time are played (two 15-minute halves). If the match is still tied, the match is considered a draw and the two teams play a penalty kick shootout to determine who advances. When a match goes into extra time, teams are allowed an extra substitute. 

The losers of the semifinals will play in a third-place game; otherwise, there are no second chances if you lose in the knockout stage.

How Many Players Are Allowed On A Team?

While 11 players are allowed on the pitch at one time, each nation will have rosters of up to 26 players, three of which must be goalkeepers. This is an increase of three per team from recent World Cups. 

The final 26-man roster can be changed up to 24 hours before the team’s first match in case of injury, but typically the squads are determined about a month before the tournament.

How Many Subs Do Teams Get?

In a major change to the substitution rules, the 2022 FIFA men’s World Cup will be the first to increase the number of subs to five per 90-minute match, with one more allowed in extra time. The additional substitute allowed in extra time debuted at the 2018 World Cup, while the increase of five subs from three subs was widely adopted around the world following the outbreak of Covid-19. 

How Much Prize Money Do Teams Win At The World Cup?

FIFA has slightly embiggened the prize money awarded to teams at the men’s World Cup for a total of $440 million, an increase of 10 percent from the 2018 edition ($400 million). 

The prize allotment is as follows:

  • Champion: $42 million
  • Runner-up: $30 million
  • Third Place: $27 million
  • Fourth Place: $25 million
  • Quarterfinalists (fifth to eighth place): $17 million
  • Round of 16 (ninth to 16th place): $13 million
  • Group Stage (17th to 32nd place): $9 million

While the prize pool is $440 million, more than $700 million is paid out by FIFA. Clubs whose players participate in the World Cup are compensated by $209 million, with insurance benefits accounting for another $134 million. 

If this seems like a lot, that’s because it is, especially compared to the prize money available to the Women’s World Cup participants. The entire prize pool for the Women’s World Cup in 2019 ($30 million) was less than the 2018 men’s World Cup winner received ($38 million).

FIFA has the money to pay these amounts (and should pay the women more). The 2014 World Cup produced $2.6 billion in profits for FIFA while that number increased to $3.54 billion in 2018. 

How To Watch World Cup — Broadcasting And Streaming

The 2022 World Cup broadcasting/streaming rights in the U.S. are held by Fox (English) and Telemundo (Spanish). 

  • TV: Fox, FS1, Telemundo, Universo
  • Streaming: Fox Sports App, Peacock Premium

Fox will air 35 matches with 29 on FS1. In Spanish, Telemundo will air every match except the simultaneous kickoffs, which will include Universo. 

You can find the full World Cup TV and streaming schedule here

What Time Are 2022 World Cup Games In USA?

There will be four World Cup kickoff times throughout the tournament, the earliest at 5 a.m. ET and the latest at 2 p.m. ET. Fortunately, the earliest kickoff times (2 a.m. on the West Coast) will only take place in the group stage and all USMNT games will be at 2 p.m. ET with the possible exception of a Round of 16 match.

  • 5 a.m. ET
  • 8 a.m. ET
  • 11 a.m. ET
  • 2 p.m. ET

Knockout-stage matches will kick off at 11 a.m. ET or 2 p.m. ET

For more on what time World Cup games kick off, click here. For the full TV schedule, click here.

World Cup Venues

The 2022 World Cup will be played at eight mostly new stadiums built in Qatar just for this tournament. All are in and around Qatar. Sadly, many of the stadiums were built by migrant workers placed in appalling conditions resulting in the deaths of thousands

Qatar promised air-conditioned stadiums and indeed there will be technology to cool the venues, even after moving the tournament to winter. The final will be played at Lusail Iconic Stadium, an 80,000-seat venue that will host 10 matches. 

We ranked all eight World Cup stadiums here. Our least favorite is made out of shipping containers. The eight venues are:

  • Lusail Iconic Stadium
  • Al Bayt Stadium
  • Stadium 974
  • Al Thumama Stadium
  • Khalifa International Stadium
  • Education City Stadium
  • Ahmad bin Ali Stadium
  • Al Janoub Stadium

Will The World Cup Have VAR?

The 2018 men’s World Cup featured the video assistant referee for the first time, and FIFA will bring the VAR back in 2022. Goal-line technology, debuted in the 2014 World Cup, will also return. 

The VAR essentially brings video replay to soccer to ensure the highest accuracy of calls. Not everything is reviewable, but every goal and potential goal is put under review to ensure the utmost veracity of the matches.

World Cup Referees

FIFA announced the 36 referees, 69 assistant referees and 24 video assistant referees on May 19, 2022. 

The 2022 World Cup will mark the first time women referees will officiate men’s World Cup matches, with France’s Stéphanie Frappart, Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita assigned as head referees. Additionally, three female assistant referees were selected, including American Kathryn Nesbitt

For more on the referees, click here.

What Controversies Have Surrounded Qatar World Cup?

Sadly, there is a massive list of controversies surrounding the 2022 Qatar World Cup, so much so it has its own Wikipedia page. For some, holding the World Cup in the Middle East for the first time is a controversy, but that’s only the opinion of xenophobes and Islamophobes, so we’ll just focus on the actual controversies, because there are plenty. 

For starters, allegations of bribery and corruption have plagued Qatar since it won the right to host the tournament in 2010. Qatar officials allegedly paid FIFA officials around the world to vote for the Qatar bid over the U.S. bid. Many of those involved in the vote have since been banned from football, including FIFA secretary general at the time, Jérôme Valcke, who was kicked out of football for nine years over corruption charges.  

The most deplorable controversy revolves around how Qatar built its World Cup stadiums. The Middle Eastern country has a system of employing migrant workers called the Kafala system, which many have compared to modern-day slavery. Workers can lose access to their passports and are subjected to exploitative practices. As a result, thousands of migrant workers have died since work began in 2010. Instead of investigating these deaths and properly reporting them, Qatari authorities have ruled these deaths as of “natural causes” or “cardiac arrest,” according to human rights group Amnesty International

Another issue is Qatar’s inhumane treatment of LGBTQ+ people. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. While leaders of Qatar’s World Cup have claimed LGBTQ+ fans will be allowed to attend, they have not been convincing when asked about whether actions such as existing or public displays of affection could land fans in jail. Additionally, many hotels in Qatar have refused lodging to LGBTQ+ fans

Lodging itself will be hard to come by in the small nation of Qatar, which has a population of 2.88 million — 1.5 million fans are expected to attend the World Cup. Because of this, many fans who are able to buy tickets will be forced to stay in cruise ships off the coast or even tents set up in the desert. Some England fan groups have been quoted nearly $25,000 to spend eight nights on a cruise ship during the World Cup. 

According to reports, Qatar is spending about $200 billion to host this competition. That’s a lot of money for such a small nation. In comparison, Russia reportedly spent $12 billion to host the 2018 World Cup. 

While arguably the least meaningful, the last controversy may be the one many fans are most upset about: no beer in World Cup stadiums. Alcohol sales and consumption are highly regulated in Qatar, and drinking in public is illegal. Qatar has promised small fan zones where alcohol will be sold, such as a disused corner of a golf club, but fans attending will struggle to find readily available alcohol as has long been standard at World Cups. 

How Many Migrant Workers/Slaves Have Been Killed In Qatar To Host The World Cup?

As of February 2021, the Guardian reported 6,500 workers have died in Qatar building World Cup stadiums. The International Trade Union Confederation projected 7,000 migrant worker deaths. Another non-profit estimated the 24,000 workers have suffered human rights abuses. 

Qatar officials say just three people have died. 

How The World Cup Works Qatar 2022

Keep reading for more on how the World Cup works. Photo: Getty Images.

How The World Cup Works For Dummies

Now that we’ve discussed the major topics regarding how the World Cup works, let’s discuss some of the most basic aspects of how the World Cup works.

Is USA In The World Cup?

The U.S. men’s national team is back in the 2022 World Cup after failing to qualify in 2018. The USMNT is in Group B with England, Wales and Iran after finishing third in Concacaf qualifying. 

The USMNT has never won the World Cup. Its best finish was third place in 1930, the first World Cup played. In contrast, the U.S. women’s national team has won four of the eight Women’s World Cups.

Who Are The Best American Soccer Players At 2022 World Cup?

While the U.S. men’s team isn’t as good as the women’s team, the American men have one of their best teams ever, led by young players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah. 

We ranked the 10 best USMNT players here.

What Makes The World Cup So Great?

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. The men’s World Cup is the biggest, most egalitarian soccer competition, allowing each country (well, the 211 recognized by FIFA) to fight for its place as the best soccer team in the world. 

While money helps certain nations — the wealthiest nations typically have advantages in training and organization — the World Cup does not divide teams by money as club competitions do, making it the fairest global men’s soccer competition in the world. 

Why Is The World Cup Every Four Years?

When the World Cup first began in 1930, it was difficult for teams to travel around the world for a soccer tournament, so the event was held every four years, like the Olympics. Additionally, qualifying for the World Cup has become so intensive it takes nearly four years to complete. Finally, hosting a 32-team tournament is a major undertaking and not something that can be done every year.

You can read more about why the World Cup is played every four years here.

How Much Is The World Cup Trophy Worth?

The FIFA men’s World Cup trophy is by far and away the most valuable in all of sports. The trophy stands at 14.5 inches, weighs 13.6 pounds, is made of 18-karat gold and semi-precious malachite and has a value of $20 million. 

In comparison, the most expensive American sports trophy, the Stanley Cup, is worth $23,478. 

Why Does The Clock Count Up In Soccer?

The fact the clock counts up in most soccer matches confuses many fans accustomed to the countdown clocks used in basketball, American football, hockey and many other sports. 

The reason the clock counts up in soccer is mostly due to stoppage time added on at the end of the 90 allotted minutes. Referees add time to the end of every period of play for stoppages such as injuries, goals, substitutions and the ball going out of play. 

By having the clock count up, the clock doesn’t go negative for this added stoppage time; it just goes beyond 90 minutes.

When Do Yellow Cards Wipe In The World Cup?

At the World Cup, a player is suspended for one match after receiving a yellow card in two separate matches. However, these yellow cards are wiped after the quarterfinal round and before the semifinals. 

For more on why this is the case and the history leading up to this current system, click here.

How Do You Get A World Cup Ticket?

World Cup tickets have been on sale since Jan. 19, 2022. World Cup tickets remain on sale until the match kicks off unless tickets sell out. 

For more on how to buy a World Cup ticket, click here

Who Has Won The Most World Cups?

Brazil has won the most men’s World Cups with five championships; the U.S. has won the most Women’s World Cups with four. Find a full list of every World Cup winner (ranked from worst to best) here. For who should have won each tournament, click here

Who Has Scored The Most World Cup Goals?

Germany’s Miroslav Klose owns the record for most men’s World Cup goals with 16, scored in 24 matches. Second-place Ronaldo of Brazil scored 15 in 19 matches. Coming in third is West Germany’s Gerd Müller with 14 in 13 games. Arguably the most impressive scoring record in men’s World Cup history belongs to Just Fontaine, who scored 13 goals in a single World Cup (six matches).

Click here for a full list of the top men’s World Cup scorers. For the greatest men’s World Cup records of all time, click here, while men’s World Cup final records can be found here.

Who Will Win The 2022 World Cup?

Four years ago in my 2018 how the World Cup works article, I predicted France to win the 2018 World Cup. That turned out well.

This time, I’m predicting Brazil will win the 2022 World Cup. You can thank me later, preferably with cash. Or check out how the oddsmakers see the favorites here.

Is Lionel Messi Still Playing?

Lionel Messi, 35, is still playing and captains the Argentina team. He made his World Cup debut in 2006 and will be competing at his fifth World Cup in Group C with Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland. 

With La Albiceleste currently ranked No. 3 in the world, Messi has his best opportunity yet to win his first World Cup and the third in Argentina history. If he is able to do so, he may finally be put alongside the late Diego Maradona as the greatest Argentine footballer of all time. 

What’s Cristiano Ronaldo Up To?

Like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo will be playing in his fifth World Cup. The 37-year-old Portuguese forward currently holds the record for most international goals in men’s soccer history with 117 strikes in 188 matches. 

Portugal is in Group H against Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea. A Seleção has never won a World Cup, coming closest in 1966 when the great Eusébio led Portugal to a third-place finish. 

Who Are The Best Players At World Cup 2022?

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo remain two of the best players in the world right now, if not all time. We went through each position and ranked the best players who will be at the 2022 World Cup.

Who Are The Best Players Not At The 2022 World Cup?

Though most of the world’s best players will be playing in Qatar, not all were able to qualify and some will be home watching after picking up ill-timed injuries. 

We listed the best players missing the World Cup here, including Mohamed Salah, Erling Haaland and Zlatan Ibrahimović. 

Which Team Should I Support?

We’re biased, but we think you should root for the United States men’s national team. 

What’s The Official Match Ball Of The World Cup?

The official FIFA 2022 men’s World Cup match ball is called the Al Rihla, which means “the journey” in Arabic. It will be the first World Cup ball to include ball-tracking technology.

What Will Teams Be Wearing?

Not all of the jerseys have been released yet, including the USMNT’s shirts. Check back later for more.

What Is That Mascot Supposed To Be?

The 2022 World Cup mascot is named La’eeb, which is an Arabic word for a “super-skilled player,” according to FIFA. 

“La’eeb is a fun and mischievous character who comes from the mascot-verse, a parallel world where all tournament mascots live,” FIFA attempts to explain. “La’eeb can be a figment of your imagination. He is whoever a football fan wants him to be.”

FIFA uses male pronouns for La’eeb, though it’s unclear what gender the mascot is, as it looks like a disembodied gutra, cloth headgear worn in Qatar. We never thought we’d say it, but we kinda miss Zabivaka.

What’s The 2022 World Cup Anthem?

The official song of the 2022 World Cup is “Hayya Hayya (Better Together)” performed by Trinidad Cardona, Davido and AISHA. 

While that’s the official song, we quite like this as an alternate anthem:

How Much Is The World Cup Costing Qatar?

As mentioned above, reports suggest Qatar has spent $200 billion to host the World Cup. With the nation’s population of 2.881 million, that’s about $69,420 dollars per Qatari. Nice.

What Is A Nutmeg? What Is A Trivela? What Is A Rabona? What Is A Dummy? What Is That Word They Keep Saying?

Here are the definitions of common words in soccer that might be foreign to those who only follow soccer every four years.

  • Nutmeg — Kicking the ball through the opponent’s legs
  • Trivela — A kick with the outside of the boot, typically with a lot of curl on it
  • Rabona — A kick where you swing your leg around the outside of your plant leg
  • Dummy — A feint where you pretend to play the ball only to let it roll past you (often through your own legs)
  • Brace — Scoring two goals in one match
  • Hat trick — Scoring three goals in one match
  • Caps — Players earn a cap each time they represent their country in an international match
  • 50-50 challenge — When two players go for a loose ball with both having a 50 percent chance of winning possession
  • Hospital ball — A slow pass that allows a defender to intercept, typically with a crunching tackle on the pass receiver, who may or may not end up in the hospital

If there’s anything else you would like to know about how the World Cup works, let us know and we’ll be sure to add it to this article.

Now get out there and use your new knowledge of how the World Cup works!

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