The biggest single-event sporting competition in the world
© Foto-net

The FIFA World Cup™ is the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world and is contested by the senior men's national teams from the 208 Member Associations of FIFA.

The competition has been played every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it was not held because of the Second World War.

It fulfils FIFA’s objectives to touch the world, develop the game, and build a better future through a variety of ways.

Tournament format

The current format of the tournament involves 32 teams competing for the title at venues within the host nation(s) over a period of one month – this phase is often called the Final Competition. A qualification phase, the Preliminary Competition which currently takes place over the preceding three years, is used to determine which teams qualify for the tournament together with the host nation(s).

The preliminary competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ sees a total of 204 entries across six continents competing for 31 available spots. For the last FIFA World Cup, 200 teams played a total of 853 matches as 31 teams qualified for South Africa.

Both the preliminary and final competitions act as a massive promotion for the game of football and for the host nation(s) and are therefore wonderful opportunities to help promote values of respect, fair play and discipline to the watching world.

Understandably, the organisation of such an event is a huge task for FIFA and the Local Organising Committee and is therefore one of the main activities of FIFA over a four-year period.

Facts and figures

The 19 FIFA World Cup tournaments have been won by eight different national teams. Brazil have won five times, and they are the only team to have played in every tournament. The other winners are Italy, with four titles; Germany, with three wins; Argentina and inaugural winners Uruguay, with two; and England, France, and Spain, with one title each.

The FIFA World Cup is the world's most widely viewed sporting event; an estimated 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany and the 2010 event in South Africa was broadcast to 204 countries on 245 different channels. Inside the stadiums, a total of 3,170,856 spectators attended the 64 matches an average of 49,670 per match and the third highest aggregate attendance behind USA 1994 and Germany 2006.

There were also over six million people who attended public viewing events in 16 sites across the world: ten within South Africa and a further six across the globe in Rome, Paris, Berlin, Sydney, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro. A total of 350,000 fans attended the International FIFA Fan Fest in Berlin for the semi-final match between Germany and Spain.

177,853 accreditations for the last FIFA World Cup were printed, while the hospitality programme attracted almost a quarter of a million guests. Over three quarters of a million litres of beer were sold in the stadiums and 390,600 hot dogs were sold in the public catering concessions; many to the half a million international visitors who descended on South Africa.

The FIFA World Cup brings in much needed resources from partners and the TV rights which allows FIFA to invest in social activities related to the tournament. For South Africa 2010, the 20 Centres for 2010 campaign was launched, aiming promote public health, education and football in disadvantaged communities across Africa. A FIFA World Cup also creates resources for many extra development programmes which proved to be beneficial for member associations of FIFA throughout the course of the four-year cycle.

The next three World Cups will be hosted by Brazil in 2014, Russia in 2018, and Qatar in 2022.