With the bandwagon growth of soccer over the last few weeks, I have been asked a ton of questions about who things are structured so this series is my attempt to do just that. This started as an answer on a messageboard from a new fans and than others started asking questions. I decide to achieve them here. Starting at the elite/professional (male) level there are two kinds of teams:
Club Teams – which is the one that plays week-in, week-out for a season. They are teams who employ the players and play in organized leagues
Country Team that is the players play in for international competitions. You can only play for a country that you are eligible to obtain a passport (you must actually get a passport for the Country you want play for).
The World Cup is an international competition organized by FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) which is a global supreme controlling body of soccer.
The World Cup actually exists in 3 stages (this is also true for most international tournaments):
* Qualifications – as it sounds it is the qualifying process to win a place at the World Cup. It can take up to 3 years, and are played between teams in the same geographical/Continental region. The US is in what is called CONCACAF and made up of North & Central America and the Caribbean countries.
* Group Play – Once the final 32 teams qualify for the World Cup there is a weighted draw to determine each group. The group is the first three matches each team plays in the World Cup. Each member of the group plays the others and accumulates points based on how they did. The top two teams advance to the knockout round.
* Knockout Play – Once the 16 teams are determined by winning or coming in second in that group, they teams left single elimination matches to determine who moves on to the next round.
The first team in one group plays the second team in the next group and so on. It goes on like that until one team is left standing at the end of the final match. For Clubs’ regular league play, for international competition for qualification and the group stages of most tournments the points system is 3 points for a win; 1 point for a tie; 0 points for a loss. At the end of the match (there is no “overtime”) you collect your points and the end of the league/group stage you count up up the points you earned and total them. There are also different tiebreakers established like goal difference, head-to-head or goals scored in those events.
For the knockout rounds, someone has to win and someone has to lose so you play regulation and still tied, you go to overtime. World Cup and most elite Competitions use a full 30 minutes of OT and if still tied, it goes to the dreaded penalties. There are some different rules on waiting goals’ value in certain competitions but that is unnecessary right now.
The difference between overtime and extra time is this.. All stoppages in play must be made up so a full 90 minutes (or 30 of OT is played)so the ref keeps track of how much time is wasted and at the end of each half of all matches awards “extra time” that will make up for that half’s lost time. That is why there is such a wide variance in extra time decisions because it is dictated on the time lost in that half. Overtime is overtime as in any sport.