THE WORLD CUP GOES TO THE MIDDLE EAST
When it kicks off on November 21, Qatar will become the first Arab country to host the FIFA World Cup, the most important event in soccer—or football, as it’s called everywhere outside of the U.S. Held every four years, the tournament will see 32 countries vie for the title of best men’s team in the world over a four-week period playing in eight new stadiums in five cities. So far, 13 countries have already clinched spots, including reigning champ France, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, England, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and Qatar.
FIFA expects an estimated 1.5 million fans to be on hand, but the decision to hold the event in Qatar has not been without controversy, which could affect attendance. Fans have raised concerns over the country’s human rights record and treatment of the LGBTQ community and migrant workers. Another departure from the norm: Due to the region’s high summer temperatures, the event, typically held in June and July, has been moved to later in the year, which will interrupt the regular football season for many nations. The shift, however, benefits players in Major League Soccer since the league’s season runs from spring to early fall.