No, Team USA Is Not in the 2018 World Cup — Here’s Who to Root For Instead

Every four years, countries across the globe come together around the world’s most popular sport: soccer (or football, depending on where you are). This year is one of those years, and 32 teams from places as different as Sweden and Senegal are gearing up to prove their mettle at the 2018 World Cup.

We all know, though, that there are more than 32 countries in the world. That means a significant chunk of countries isn’t participating this year. Notably among them —  for us stateside — is the United States Men’s National Team. Never exactly a powerhouse on the international stage, Team USA has still managed to qualify for the World Cup every time since 1986. Sadly, that streak was broken when they were eliminated by Trinidad and Tobago.

So, that leaves American fans in the lurch. If you have another team you cheer for — chances are, if you’re a soccer fan, you do — then great! If you don’t, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find eight teams we believe you should support based soley on fun facts about the nations.

Yes, we spent zero time analyzing stats to see who might be the high performers this time around. Instead, we dug up obscure tidbits, because why not. Who wouldn’t want to root for a country that not only gave us IKEA, but also Candy Crush?

Uruguay

iceland versus peru soccer
HARRISON, NJ – MARCH 27: Hj’u009artur Hermannsson #26 of Iceland and Miguel Trauco #6 of Peru battle for the ball in an International Friendly match at Red Bull Arena on March 27, 2018 in Harrison, New Jersey. Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Capital: Montevideo
Population: 3.44 million
Why you should cheer: Uruguay is the second-smallest country in South America and cows outnumber people four to one. Also, Uruguay has won the World Cup twice already, in 1930 and again in 1950.

Serbia

raspberry raspberries
Serbia’s most important exports: raspberries and vampires.

Capital: Belgrade
Population: 7.04 million (excluding Kosovo)
Why you should cheer: Serbia is the largest exporter of raspberries in the world (with hopes to once again be the largest exporter of plums, apples, and prunes in Europe). Also, the only Serbian word that is used around the world is “vampire.”

Tunisia

star wars cocktails tatooine
Tunisia was the real-life setting of many Star Wars scenes set on Tatooine. Disney

Capital: Tunis
Population: 11.3 million
Why you should cheer: The Sahel, a coastal plain along Tunisia’s eastern Mediterranean coast, is among the world’s premier areas for olive cultivation. In addition, Tunisia has served as the location for some of Hollywood’s biggest films, including Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Sweden

candy crush saga game
In addition to Candy Crush Saga, you have Sweden to thank for Candy Crush Soda Saga and Candy Crush Jelly Saga. Candy Crush Saga/Facebook

Capital: Stockholm
Population: 9.9 million
Why you should cheer: Sweden is the third-largest country in the European Union by area but has the second lowest population density. You can also thank Sweden for Candy Crush Saga — King is one of Sweden’s most popular companies.

Senegal

senegal taxi tail
Note the tail underneath the rear fender. Ji-Elle/Wikimedia

Capital: Dakar
Population: 15.41 million
Why you should cheer: Senegalese taxis have tails — well, artificial tails made of goat or sheep hair that supposedly bring good luck. Plus, if you’re a fan of Akon, then you’re a fan of Senegal, as that’s where he was raised.

Peru

peru guinea pig cuy potato
Guinea pig, aka cuy, can be served in a variety of ways, from deep-fried to baked. Steven Damron/Flickr

Capital: Lima
Population: 32.16 million
Why you should cheer: Starch-lovers pay attention: Peru grows over 3,000 varieties of potato. Know what these potatoes go well will? Guinea pig, which is a delicacy in Peru. (Oh, and they have some amazing sights, like the Nazca Lines. No biggy.)

Morocco

travel guide marrakech morocco menara pavilion and gardens  marrakesh getty images v2
World-class soccer is just one of the many reasons to visit Morocco. Peerakit JIrachetthakun/Getty Images

Capital: Rabat
Population: 35.28 million
Why you should cheer: In 1786, Morocco was the first nation to sign a treaty with the United States. On top of that, Morocco’s national animal is the Barbary lion, which is pretty badass. And Marrakech is absolutely breath-taking.

Iceland

reyka vodka world cup iceland banner
The ol’ red, white, and blue is still in the game.

Capital: Reykjavík
Population: 334,000
Why you should cheer: We’ve already made our case for Iceland (hint: it has to do with red, white, and blue), but we’ll throw in this fun fact: Consumption of Coca-Cola per capita is higher in Iceland than in any other country.

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