What to watch for when you are watching the World Cup: Essential reads for on and off the field

Whether you call it “soccer” or “football,” the beautiful game is enjoyed by fans around the world. And every four years, it is celebrated in a monthlong spectacle: the World Cup.

This time around, proceedings will start on Nov. 20 in host nation Qatar – something that has caused understandable consternation among human rights advocates and members of the LGBTQ community, given the Arab state’s record on such issues.

In spite of the controversy, the World Cup will be the most-watched sporting event of the year. Here’s a guide to some of what to watch out for.

1. Backing Team USA (or perhaps not)

The U.S. men’s national soccer team makes a return to the top stage in Qatar after not making the cut four years ago in Russia. But that doesn’t mean everyone back home will be cheering them on.

As Vanderbilt University’s John M. Sloop notes, soccer fans in the United States aren’t necessarily cheering on the team in red, white and blue. The green jerseys of El Tri, as the Mexican national team is known, will get a share of that support. In fact, there is a strong argument to be made that Mexico’s is the most popular soccer team in the United States – especially if you look at TV viewership figures. Mexico’s Liga MX is the most-watched soccer league in the U.S. – more popular than both the domestic MLS and the elite European leagues of England, Spain and Italy.