Getting Ready for Some Soccer

Around the world on Friday, soccer fans were glued to their televisions, computers and radio. Amazingly, there was no big game on. No championship match; no blistering shots and eye-popping saves.

No, the world was waiting to hear about the World Cup draw, when teams find out in which groups they will be playing come the big tournament this summer in South Africa.

What's a group?: The first round of the World Cup is group play. The 32 countries that have qualified for the tournament have been divided into eight groups of four teams. For example, Group A is made up of South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and France. These teams will all play one another and the two teams with the best record advance to the Round of 16. From there, it's a single-elimination tournament.

Why is it important?: The world anxiously watched the draw because fans can good a good sense of their team's chances in the tournament. In Group A, Mexico and France are very strong teams, while South Africa and Uruguay are not as talented. Mexican and French fans are excited because their teams have a good chance to do well in group play and advance to the Round of 16. The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world - even six months before the games begin, fans are getting revved up.

Where's the U.S.?: The United States will play in Group C, along with England, Slovenia and Algeria. Most American soccer fans are looking forward to the team's opening match against England on June 12. The two teams last met in the World Cup in 1950, when the U.S. upset England 1-0.

The World Cup draw means that the tournament is right around the corner. After four years of waiting, soccer fans finally get to experience the sport's biggest moment. For players and coaches, the draw means that they can start practicing and preparing for the teams they know they will face. It marks the beginning of a long period of anticipation that could ultimately lead to a grand championship. The harder they work, the better their chances.

Let the games begin!

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