Your Complete Viewing Guide to the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Rich Sands
Joao Henriques/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

LISBON, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 10 : Cristiano Ronaldo (7) of Portugal in action during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier soccer match between Portugal and Switzerland at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica on October 10, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal.

American soccer fans were devastated last fall when the United States men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. When the quadrennial tournament starts on June 14 in cities throughout Russia it will be the first time since 1986 that the Red, White and Blue won't be a part of the world's biggest sporting event.

That's not ideal for Fox Sports, which is broadcasting the month-long competition for the first time. (It also doesn't help that perennial powerhouses Italy and the Netherlands were also eliminated in qualifying.) "But even the most uneducated soccer fan in the United States at the very least recognizes that this is the pinnacle of the sport," says Fox analyst Alexi Lalas, who played for the U.S. in the 1994 World Cup and covered the last three editions for ESPN. "This is the biggest party in the world, celebrating the most popular sport in the world." (FIFA, the governing body of the sport, calculates that 3.2 billion people watched the 2014 tournament.)

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All 64 games will air live on Fox or Fox Sports 1. (Telemundo will carry Spanish-language telecasts.) The top contenders among the 32 teams include defending champion Germany, five-time winner Brazil, Spain, Argentina and France.

Looking for a sentimental favorite? Iceland (population roughly 340,000) is the smallest country ever to qualify. The well-organized Nordic underdogs upset England in the European championship two years ago and rolled through World Cup qualifying with a helpful assist from their exuberant fans and their signature "thunderclap" celebration. "To have so quickly announced themselves with authority and success, that's one thing," Lalas says. "Now the World Cup is where we really figure out what this team is. They will certainly not surprise any of the teams in their group. I think they're going to have a lot of people gravitating to them and they're going to be labeled an underdog, whether it's fair or not. Don't sleep on them, because they will make you pay."

For those looking to keep their rooting interests in North America, Mexico is the region's best hope as they aim to break a streak of six straight World Cup losses in the Round of 16. Though Lalas calls Mexico and its first-round opponents (Germany, Sweden and South Korea) this year's "Group of Death," he believes the squad can advance, and potentially reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1986. "There is a quiet optimism for this Mexico team to finally get into that promised land out of the Round of 16," Lalas says. "I have no problem picking them coming out of the group."

The tournament kicks off Thursday, June 14 with host Russia playing Saudi Arabia (11am/10c, Fox), while other early group-stage games of note are Portugal vs. Spain (Friday, June 15, 2/1c, Fox), Iceland vs. Argentina (Saturday, June 16, 9am/8c, Fox) and Germany vs. Mexico (Sunday, June 17, 11am/10c, Fox Sports 1).

Expect iconic performances from superstars Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Neymar (Brazil) — but the World Cup also has the power to create new heroes. "We're going to find this summer that there's someone we're not necessarily talking a lot about [now] whose life is going to completely change," Lalas says. "They will use this spotlight to catapult themselves into superstar status. And that is always fun to see."

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Thursday, June 14
11am/10c Russia vs. Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium Fox

Friday, June 15
8am/7c Egypt vs. Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena Fox Sports 1
11am/10c Morocco vs. Iran at Saint Petersburg Stadium Fox
2/1c Portugal vs. Spain at Fisht Stadium Fox

Saturday, June 16
6am/5c France vs. Australia at Kazan Arena Fox Sports 1
9am/8c Argentina vs. Iceland at Spartak Stadium Fox
Noon/11am c Peru vs. Denmark at Mordovia Arena Fox Sports 1
3/2c Croatia vs. Nigeria at Kaliningrad Stadium Fox Sports 1

Sunday, June 17
8am/7c Costa Rica vs. Serbia at Samara Arena Fox
11am/10c Germany vs. Mexico at Luzhniki Stadium Fox Sports 1
2/1c Brazil vs. Switzerland at Rostov Arena Fox Sports 1

Monday, June 18
8am/7c Sweden vs. Korea Republic at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Fox Sports 1
11am/10c Belgium vs. Panama at Fisht Stadium Fox Sports 1
2/1c Tunisia vs. England at Volgograd Arena Fox Sports 1

Tuesday, June 19
8am/7c Colombia vs. Japan at Mordovia Arena Fox Sports 1
11am/10c Poland vs. Senegal at Spartak Stadium Fox
2/1c Russia vs. Egypt at Saint Petersburg Stadium Fox

Wednesday, June 20
8am/7c Portugal vs. Morocco at Luzhniki Stadium Fox Sports 1
11am/10c Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia at Rostov Arena Fox
2/1c Iran vs. Spain at Kazan Arena Fox

Thursday, June 21
8am/7c Denmark vs. Australia at Samara Arena Fox Sports 1
11am/10c France vs. Peru at Ekaterinburg Arena Fox
2/1c Argentina vs. Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Fox

Friday, June 22
8am/7c Brazil vs. Costa Rica at Saint Petersburg Stadium Fox Sports 1
11am/10c Nigeria vs. Iceland at Volgograd Arena Fox
2/1c Serbia vs. Switzerland at Kaliningrad Stadium Fox

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Saturday, June 23
8am/7c Belgium vs. Tunisia at Spartak Stadium Fox
11am/10c Korea Republic vs. Mexico at Rostov Arena Fox
2/1c Germany vs. Sweden at Fisht Stadium Fox

Sunday, June 24
8am/7c England vs. Panama at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Fox Sports 1
11am/10c Japan vs. Senegal at Ekaterinburg Arena Fox
2/1c Poland vs. Colombia at Kazan Arena Fox

Monday, June 25
10am/9c Uruguay vs. Russia at Samara Arena Fox*
10am/9c Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt at Volgograd Arena Fox Sports 1*
2/1c Iran vs. Portugal at Mordovia Arena Fox*
2/1c Spain vs. Morocco at Kalin-ingrad Stadium Fox Sports 1*

Tuesday, June 26
10am/9c Denmark vs. France at Luzhniki Stadium Fox*
10am/9c Australia vs. Peru at Fisht Stadium Fox Sports 1*
2/1c Nigeria vs. Argentina at Saint Petersburg Stadium Fox*
2/1c Iceland vs. Croatia at Rostov Arena Fox Sports 1*

Wednesday, June 27
10am/9c Mexico vs. Sweden at Ekaterinburg Arena Fox*
10am/9c Korea Republic vs. Germany at Kazan Arena Fox Sports 1*
2/1c Serbia vs. Brazil at Spartak Stadium Fox*
2/1c Switzerland vs. Costa Rica at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Fox Sports 1*

Thursday, June 28
10am/9c Senegal vs. Colombia at Samara Arena Fox*
10am/9c Japan vs. Poland at Volgograd Arena Fox Sports 1*
2/1c England vs. Belgium at Kaliningrad Stadium Fox*
2/1c Panama vs. Tunisia at Mordovia Arena Fox Sports 1*

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KNOCKOUTS

Saturday, June 30
10am/9c Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up at Kazan Arena Fox
2/1c Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up at Fisht Stadium Fox

Sunday, July 1
10am/9c Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up at Luzhniki Stadium Fox
2/1c Group D winner vs.
Group C runner-up at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Fox

Monday, July 2
10am/9c Group E winner vs. Group F runner-up at Samara Arena Fox Sports 1
2/1c Group G winner vs. Group H runner-up at Rostov Arena Fox

Tuesday, July 3
10am/9c Group F winner vs. Group E runner-up at Saint Petersburg Stadium Fox Sports 1
2/1c Group H winner vs. Group G runner-up at Spartak Stadium Fox

QUARTERFINALS

Friday, July 6
10am/9c Winners of June 30 matches at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Fox Sports 1
2/1c Winners of July 2 matches at Kazan Arena Fox Sports 1

Saturday, July 7
10am/9c Winners of July 3 matches at Samara Arena Fox
2/1c Winners of July 1 matches at Fisht Stadium Fox

SEMIFINALS

Tuesday, July 10
2/1c Winners of July 6 matches at Saint Petersburg Stadium Fox

Wednesday, July 11
2/1c Winners of July 7 matches at Luzhniki Stadium Fox

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THIRD-PLACE MATCH

Saturday, July 14
10am/9c July 10 runner-up vs. July 11 runner-up at Saint Petersburg Stadium Fox

FINAL

Sunday, July 15
11am/10c July 10 winner vs. July 11 winner at Luzhniki Stadium Fox

WHERE THEY’RE PLAYING

Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg
Fisht Stadium, Sochi
Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
Kazan Arena, Kazan
Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Mordovia Arena, Saransk
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don
Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg
Samara Arena, Samara
Spartak Stadium, Moscow
Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

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This article also appeared in the June 11 - June 24 issue of TV Guide Magazine.

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