Soccer is an entertaining sport and has the records to back it up as the most-watched sport globally. So it has to be doing something right to have more than half of the world’s population watching its biggest tournament, the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
According to FIFA, an estimated 3.5 billion people watched the tournament. The finals alone, between France and Croatia, had about 1.1 billion people tune in at any point during the game.
What makes the sport so special to keep the world fixated on its biggest tournament for about four weeks? Humans are naturally drawn to competitions with open fairness. To watch underdogs defy logical reasoning and make it past group stages.
At all levels and variants of the game, there are always millions of fans rooting for every tournament.
There are over 100 tournaments played at either international, continental, national, or local levels. To avoid overlap of major tournaments, FIFA schedules tournaments to run in such a way that fans do not miss out on one for the other.
The article examines the duration of some of soccer’s top tournaments and a brief overview of the structures that govern them.
How long do soccer tournaments last?
Most tournaments last between a day to several weeks. However, the duration of the tournament does not in any way take the glory and entertainment out of it.
Soccer fans are more than happy to watch and enjoy their chosen team edge it out for the title. For some, even when their favorite team has been knocked out of the competition, they settle for another team and root for them to win.
It would be exhausting to highlight all of the tournaments in soccer. To keep it an interesting read, we’ll focus on tournaments with the largest following or viewing audiences.
In no particular order of ranking, here are the top soccer tournaments and their corresponding duration of play.
The FIFA World Cup
It would be total injustice not to begin with the sport’s most famous tournament. Even non-soccer fans are aware when it is on.
The tournament is held every four years. This has been its way since it was first played in 1930. However, the tournament was not held in 1942 and 1946 because of the effects of the Second World War.
The tournament consists of 32 national teams (including the host nation), who are member nations of FIFA. It begins with the group stages comprising of four teams divided into eight groups categorized in the first eight alphabets.
The tournament about a month. This includes the rest breaks in-between the stages of the tournament — Group stages and Knockout stage (Quarterfinals, Semifinals, & Finals).
Among the six continental confederations in FIFA, UEFA has the biggest and most-watched tournaments. The Union of European Football Associations runs both club and national competitions.
Its top most-watched tournaments at club levels are the Champions League, Europa League, European Conference League, Super Cup. At the national level, it has the European Championship.
This is the biggest tournament in all of Europe. It is regarded as the World Cup for clubs. It is an annual tournament that runs concurrently with other national leagues.
From its qualifying rounds and playoffs to its finals takes about 12 months (through the length of the league’s season year). This also includes all of the breaks and rest periods between the stages.
Group stage games are played during the weekdays to avoid clashes with participating team’s national leagues (preferably Tuesdays & Wednesdays). The tournament starts properly in the Group stage with 32 participating teams.
It is the second highest-rated tournament in Europe’s club competitions. Like the Champions League, it begins the Qualifying rounds and Playoff and ends with its Final.
It is also played concurrently with national league matches. Inclusive of the breaks between the games and stages, the main competition runs for about ten months.
Thirty-two teams also make it into the group stage at the end of the qualifying rounds and playoffs. The tournament’s group stage games are played on Thursdays of the same week when the Champions League games have been played.
European Conference League
It is Europe’s third-highest tournament at the club level. The main competition runs for almost the entire length of a league season, about ten months, and is played between national league games.
Its group stage matches are played on Thursdays with its Europa League counterpart. The group stage also begins with 32 teams placed in 8 Groups.
This is a final match between the Champions League and the Europa League winners. UEFA fixes a date for the action to take place.
It is a tournament for the European men’s national team. The tournament occurs every four years.
24 teams make it into the finals with four teams in six groups. The tournament lasts for about a month.
U.S. Open Cup
It is a club knockout tournament that brings together about 100 teams. The tournament lasts for about seven months.
Three rounds are played to narrow down the competing teams into a Round of 32 teams.
U.S. League Cup
This club tournament sees teams from the Major League Soccer and the Liga MX battle it out for about eight weeks to find the ultimate winner.
NCAA Soccer Tournament
It is a US college soccer tournament. The tournament brings together the best 48 college soccer teams to battle for the College Cup title.
The tournament lasts for about a month. It operates with a single-elimination format.
Olympic Football Tournament
It is an international competition of 16 national teams pulled from FIFA’s six confederations. To ensure the tournament level of importance stays below that of the FIFA World Cup, FIFA has put in place age restrictions.
National teams are only allowed to field U-23 players. To keep the tournament relevant, it makes an exception by allowing only three professional players above 23 years in each team.
The tournament has a duration of about 16 days.
FIFA Club World Cup
The tournament features the winners of FIFA’s six confederation competitions and the host nation’s national league winner. This brings a total of seven teams vying for the title.
The competition lasts for about two weeks and uses the knockout format.
There are many soccer tournaments existing in each of the six confederations. However, Europe has the most-watched tournaments, making most of its competitions rank among the world’s best.
FIFA and its affiliate members organize these tournaments in such a way that they do not interfere with its member nation’s leagues. Some last from a single-day final to running concurrently with league games.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!