It's time for fair-weather soccer fans to pick a favorite country, and for real soccer fans to get ready to go hard for their team. The FIFA World Cup 2018 officially starts on Thursday, June 14. If you've never paid attention before, it may be time to tune in: The World Cup is the largest international event for the most popular sport in the world. According to Wired, over 1 billion people tuned in to watch 2014's final game, in which the national team from Germany triumphed over Argentina in overtime. In short, the World Cup is kind of a big deal.
This year's World Cup takes place in Russia. Some games will be in Sochi (which you'll remember from the 2014 Winter Olympics), and others will be played in 11 newly built stadiums across the country.
The tournament kicks off with the group stage: The 32 teams who made it to the tournament are broken into eight groups of four, and play in a round-robin format, meaning each team faces off with every other team in its group once. Teams are awarded three points for each win, one for each tie, and zero for each loss. At the end of the round-robin, the two teams with the most points in each group move onto the next round, known as the Round of 16. From there, teams are eliminated after just one loss. The number of teams left standing are then whittled down through quarter-final and semi-final rounds. Then, the final match to determine the World Cup 2018 champ will be played on July 15.
Here's what you need to know about how to watch the World Cup live all month long:
The tournament kicks off on Thursday, June 14 at 11 A.M. EST with Russia vs. Saudi Arabia. Other exciting group stage match-ups include reigning champ Germany vs. Mexico on Sunday, June 17 at 11 A.M. EST; Brazil vs. Switzerland on Sunday, June 17 at 2 P.M. EST; and Argentina vs. Croatia on Thursday, June 21 at 2 P.M. EST. It's Iceland's first time in the tournament, so you may want to tune in for Iceland vs. Nigeria on Friday, June 22 at 11 A.M. EST. The United States did not qualify for a spot this year, so Americans, now's your chance to choose another country early and spend the month getting invested.
To view the complete game schedule, visit the FIFA website.
If you're based in the United States, Fox Sports will be your go-to for games. The channel has exclusive broadcasting rights and will broadcast every game from today through July 15. You can live stream the games on your devices through the Fox Sports app—you'll just have to log in with a cable TV subscription. You can also watch live on Hulu on your TV, computer, or smart phone, with a paid Hulu subscription. Spanish-language broadcasts will be aired, also for free, on Telemundo.
For up-to-the-minute updates all month long, follow @FIFAWorldCup on Twitter.