Soccer is an international sport. Here at Clapper, with creators from all around the world, we wanted to honor soccer’s biggest international event. Besides the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world with billions of viewers across the globe. We are so excited to watch the best 32 teams in the world battle to take home the trophy and wanted to give you a quick (emphasis on that quick) lesson on the history of soccer and the World Cup. Both have an interesting past full of twists and turns; this article focuses on the game’s beginnings and FIFA’s evolution, but there’s so much more to explore!
Soccer’s Origins ⚽
Soccer (or football!) has a long and storied history – so much so that its ancestry can be traced across multiple continents. The earliest origin story comes from Mesoamerican cultures over 3,000 years ago, back when the game was played with a rock and players used their elbows, hips, and knees to get it through a goal (a moment of silence for their joints). There was a similar game in China around 3 BC and 2 BC, which was the first known game played by kicking a ball. According to white immigrants, Aboriginal Australians played something similar.
But it was the ancient Romans who brought an early version of soccer to the British Islands, where the current iteration of soccer (most likely) began in the 12th century. The English version of the game was incredibly violent and subsequently banned. Twice! Somehow the game became a staple of Eton College and it grew in popularity from there. Soccer is currently the biggest sport in the world, played by more than 240 million people.
The FIFA World Cup 💡
The World Cup’s history began with the Olympics, where amateur teams competed in a showcase rather than a tournament. The first successful, professional tournament wasn’t until 1909 when Sir Thomas Lipton (of Lipton tea fame) organized the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy Tournament and invited individual clubs from each country to compete. By 1930, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) began staging its own tournament separate from the Olympics. Thus, the first World Cup was born! The tournament began as 15 teams, but expanded to 32 in 1998 and will feature 48 in 2026.
The Final Game 🗺️
The World Cup is played every 4 years, but teams begin qualifying early as 3 years before! There’s only one spot for each country across FIFA’s continental zones, but dozens of teams all want that position. Once a team has its place in the Cup, there are 2 stages: the group stage and the knockout stage. In the group stage, the 32 teams are broken into 8 groups of 4. All 4 of these teams will compete against each other, and the top 2 will move on to the knockout round. The top 16 teams will play each other in one-off matches and, from there, will advance to the finals.
This Year’s World Cup 🏆
This year’s World Cup will take place in Qatar! The group stage will start on November 20th, and the World Cup itself will take place on December 18th. You can check out when your favorite teams will be competing here. In addition to bragging rights and world renown, teams compete to take home the FIFA World Cup Trophy. The trophy itself is a fairly new addition, with the original being gifted to Brazil after three wins and eventually stolen. You can read more about that specific side of the Cup’s history here.
This year we’ve got tons of ways for you to keep up with the World Cup on Clapper! You can share your reactions or celebrations using the hashtag #FIFAWorldCup22 and keep up with the tournaments and teams on our socials and in the World Cup banner on your explore page. No matter who you’re rooting for or how you’re showing your team spirit, be sure to be respectful of everyone else’s opinions!
Bibliography/Learn More 📚
Want to learn more? Want to read up on the Mesoamerican game, or hear about what happened to the Cup during World War II? Check out our sources below!
A comprehensive history of football
The earliest known version of football
The history of the World Cup
A very brief history of football
The history of the World Cup Trophy (yes, it’s interesting enough to include!)