By Peter Gleason

The World Cup competition begins in 11 days in Russia, and as you might have noticed the United States failed to qualify.

So, do we care?

I dont know, but there are millions of futbol-heads out there who do.

Here’s a quick take by the New York Times’ David Leonhardt:

Even if you’re not a sports fan, you’re soon likely to hear a lot of conversation about the World Cup. The tournament — the world’s most-watched sporting event — starts this month (June 14). And there are plenty of intriguing themes, even for people who don’t care much about the results:

Russia is hosting the tournament, four years after it also hosted an Olympics. That’s not a coincidence. “It’s a colorful distraction and a way to fulfill the kleptocratic mandate: privatize the profits, nationalize the costs,”Garry Kasparov, the chess champion, writes for ESPN.

Careful readers may have noticed that I’ve so far avoided mentioning what sport is played at the World Cup. It was my attempt to steer clear of the whole debate around calling the game soccer or football. Most of the world, of course, calls it football. But the United States isn’t the only outlier. Australia and Japan — who are both in the tournament — also use a word like soccer, as this Brilliant Maps post shows.

This year’s tournament is missing some of the usual teams. Traditional powerhouses Italy and Holland both failed to qualify, as did — in excruciating fashion — the United States. Still, don’t confuse a setback with a trend, Andrés Martinez has advised in The Los Angeles Times. “Given our sheer numbers, our demographics and our organizational prowess at the youth level, eventual success seems likely, regardless of whether American audiences really care,” he writes.

You know who else won’t be in Russia for the tournament? Many of the announcers calling the games for Fox Sports. They’ll be watching the event on television themselves and broadcasting from a studio in Los Angeles. “It’s not an advantage at all. You’re limited in what you get to see,” said Aly Wagner, who will be one of the broadcasters.

As for the teams themselves, there is no strong favorite this year. Brazil, Germany (the defending champion), France, Spain and Argentina have the best odds. If you want to root for a team that’s never won before,Belgium and Colombia are both getting some attention.

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