The Best Way To Watch The World Cup? Don’t Pick A Team

If you don’t have a dog in the fight, you’re best suited to enjoy the World Cup.

Rooting for a particular team is one of the most compelling reasons to watch sports, especially soccer. But what do you do when your team isn’t in soccer’s most compelling tournament? What is the best way to watch the World Cup if your nation isn’t involved, as many from the U.S., Italy and the Netherlands are asking themselves right now? 

The World Cup kicks off on June 14 in Russia. Most of the world population will not have a nation to root for at the tournament, including the four largest countries in the world. So what do you do when you’re a soccer fan without a team in the World Cup?

For some, like those in China and India, the world’s most populous nations, this is a regular occurrence. The only appearance in a World Cup for either country was China in 2002, when it lost all three matches without scoring a goal. But for fans from the U.S., Italy and the Netherlands, this is an unusual position.

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There are plenty of people out there trying to tell you who to root for in the World Cup this summer. In fact, we’ve told you who to pick in both quiz form and list form, and we’ve suggested Americans just suck it up and jump on the Mexico bandwagon

But I’m here to tell you to ignore all of that (after you click those links above to give us more hits). 

The best way to watch the World Cup isn’t by picking a team you have little allegiance to — it’s to not pick a team at all and just enjoy the tournament in all its glory. 

There is nothing quite like the World Cup. Played every four years, athletes train their entire careers for this month-long tournament. Careers are made at the World Cup. Pele and Diego Maradona are considered the greatest players of all time because they’ve won the World Cup — Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi often struggle to get into the all-time conversation because of their inability to win the one tournament that matters most. 

But to pick a single team to pin your hopes and dreams on during the World Cup is folly. If your country is not in the tournament, there’s no reason to pick a team for the sake of picking a team. The beauty of the World Cup is you don’t have to pick a side to enjoy the tournament. 

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Of course, if your country (or perhaps the country of your origin) is in the tournament, by all means the best way to watch the World Cup is to go all out rooting for them. But it can be more enjoyable to just watch the World Cup without a rooting interest.

By not picking one team to follow, you can watch every match without the consternation that goes with worrying about a loss. When you’re not focused on one team winning or losing, you better see the quality on display from both sides (unless it’s Saudi Arabia vs. Russia, because that game has no redeeming qualities other than being first). 

When I watch the World Cup this summer, I won’t be rooting for one particular team. Sure, I would like to see Lionel Messi get the World Cup monkey off his back or Mexico finally break its Round-of-16 curse, but I’d be just as happy to see Iran make an unexpected run to the quarterfinals or Sweden defy Zlatan and win the whole thing. I just want to watch something great happen — and because it’s the World Cup, something great will happen

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll will still have rooting interests in each match. I prefer Spain’s fluidity to Portugal’s disjointedness so I’ll be hoping for a La Furia Roja win in that matchup. Even though I think England has a great squad this year and would like to see the Three Lions not suck, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to laugh at the team when they crash out early once again.

The point is, I won’t let rooting allegiances get in the way of enjoying the tournament. 

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Every year Americans rediscover their love for college basketball around the time the NCAA Tournament begins. Fans fill out their predicted brackets with more care than they use to name their children. But once their bracket inevitably falls apart, probably in the first day or two, they stop paying attention to the tournament and miss the best moments. 

When it comes to the best way to watch the World Cup, it isn’t about betting, rooting for a team because they have a good uniform or jumping ship to root for your rival. It’s about watching the best players in the world play in the best tournament in the world. It’s about enjoying the beautiful game for the beauty of the game.

So instead of repeatedly asking who to root for during this summer’s World Cup, don’t pick a team; choose to enjoy the tournament regardless of who is playing and who wins. You literally cannot lose.

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