The 2014 World Cup kicks off in earnest on Friday, kind of. There won't be any matches played, or anyone in uniform either. But the draw which will set the stage for the summer's tournament will take place instead. Teams will know their groups, venues, start times and path to the World Cup final, setting in motion six months of preparation, prognostication and speculation. Can you feel the excitement?
Of course, as is always the case with these FIFA spectacles, the draw will be as much a production as a logistical necessity. There will be videos, dances, songs and anything else the organizers can dream up before they actually get around to picking balls out of bowls and setting the stage for the World Cup. That makes for a long, drawn-out event, but that is what we have come to expect with these things.
Once the draw itself gets underway, a team will be drawn from Pot 4, which is made up of the nine non-seeded European teams, and placed into Pot 2. Then the draw will begin, with one team from each pot placed into each group. The only rules are that a group cannot have two teams from the same continent, except for Europe, which because of its nine representatives may have two teams in a single group.
The schedule for the World Cup has already been set, with team A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2, etc. being assigned to matches in specific cities with specific start times. The draw will assign teams to place A1, A2, etc. so favoritism is not a factor. That is especially important this World Cup because Brazil is a massive country and travel could be brutal. Any team that ends up with extraordinary travel will not do so because FIFA has done them in, but rather because they drew the unfortunate place on the schedule.
ESPN has the English-language rights to the 2014 World Cup in the United States and with that comes the rights to broadcast the draw. They will show the draw on ESPN2 beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET and Univision will also have it live in Spanish.
Draw date/time: Friday, December 6; 11:30 a.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. local
Venue: Costa do Sauípe Resort, Mata de São João, Brazil
TV: ESPN2 (U.S. English), Univision (U.S. Spanish), Sportsnet (Canada), Sky Sports 1 (U.K.)