World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is coming up and it’s not like any of the previous 21 editions. Because of that, the top powerhouses who are in contention every four years are potentially vulnerable and may endure more of a struggle than they expected.

In the 92-year history of the World Cup, only eight countries have ever won the trophy. Just five other countries have made it to the final. All 13 countries to reach the final have come either from Europe or South America. Will we see a new country make the final or possibly win? That can happen, as this 2022 edition can be one of the most unpredictable World Cups ever for multiple reasons.

While Qatar is in a somewhat European-friendly time zone, it’s still further east than most of the top European soccer nations. Doha is in the same time zone as Moscow, the capital city of the nation that held the 2018 World Cup. And in that tournament, Croatia reached the final for the first time ever.

The only other Asian-based World Cup was South Korea/Japan in 2002. While the final consisted of Brazil defeating Germany, South Korea and Turkey reached the semifinals, and the United States and Senegal (in their first World Cup) reached the quarters. The USA arguably would’ve reached the semis had VAR been a thing 20 years ago, but alas, Germany advanced.

When the World Cup isn’t in Europe or South America, some surprise teams can go pretty far. That very well can happen here.

The timing is the largest unknown because this is the first World Cup to take place in what would be considered winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s not the drop in temperature that will potentially affect the tournament. It’ll be the fact that the World Cup is wedged in between the top European club seasons where the majority of top World Cup players compete.

For leagues that follow the winter schedule, the season starts in August and ends in May. If you play for a top side, you have league games on the weekend and then UEFA continental games during the week while having the occasional national cup tournament. Or tournaments depending on the country.

The European club season is a grueling season with rare breaks. That’s great for fans, but not so much for the stars who are barely able to recover from game to game.

With the World Cup starting three months after the start of the European club season, players are literally going from their club teams one day to their international teams the next. Will these players be more fatigued this World Cup compared to earlier tournaments where they had a few weeks between the club season ending and the first World Cup games?

Contrast this to MLS, one of the top leagues that follow the summer schedule. For the first time, they don’t have to halt their club season for this World Cup. MLS players who are playing in Qatar will have a sizable break before the World Cup. That might result in a little rust to start but they will be completely fresh for the tournament. Will World Cup teams with MLS players have an advantage?

There’s still a good chance that regular heavy hitters like France, Argentina, Brazil, and England will ultimately stand tall at the end of the day, but if there’s any year for an underdog to win the World Cup, it would be in 2022.

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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