Hello, fan of American football. The World Cup is happening. Here’s a quick way to get caught up on the whole thing and/or know how to make fun of each team.
Talented. Weird weather. Weird animals. Weird food. Legendary tailgating fans. Brad Wing. Has its own continent all to itself, at least spiritually. LSU.
West Virginia! It’s a rowdy breakoff republic that’s usually underrated, due to its small size and sparse population.
Georgia, with its tons of talent, long decades without titles, and inexplicable struggle to be consistently elite. Also: there are bulldogs.
UCF, the team willing itself into the national picture. Also, Epcot now has an Iceland-ish exhibit, thanks to Queen Elsa. The movie’s said to be set in Norway, yes. Norway is an ice land. Let’s not make this difficult.
One star player surrounded by a lot of basic competence? Stanford, any year since Andrew Luck showed up.
Fired up! Always top 20, but never No. 1! Probably a little too passionate! How about Oklahoma State?
They have a respected coach who’s turned a lot of bad teams into decent teams, but hasn’t gone beyond that. Iran is wherever Skip Holtz is at the moment. Iran is Louisiana Tech.
Well, your best player is frequently suspended, so you’re Florida State, Oklahoma, or an SEC team.
A dirty team with some big wins a long time ago, all based in a (really beautiful!) area you probably wouldn’t visit otherwise: BYU.
A little cultish, and dearly missing its best player ever? Texas A&M.
A fun mid-major with actual star players, much like, say, Ed Oliver at Houston.
Big, strong athletes you’ll probably regret facing, even if you beat them? Utah.
Lots of talent on its way out, with little to show for it: NC State’s 2017 NFL Draft crop.
Really tough little defense, but more known for oddball moments. Appalachian State? Troy?
A mediocre team with one player really worth caring about, all surrounded by desert. Welcome to Arizona.
Pretty great and super talented, but its fans are perpetually offended by not being the sole topic of every discussion about the sport: Ohio State.
A currently solid team without a ton of historic success, but with some new tricks up its sleeve: Purdue.
Boring teams. One of you is Iowa, and the other is South Carolina. Decide it amongst yourselves.
So what have you really gained from having the best player? Portugal, you are the Louisville Cardinals.
Arizona State! Fast and fun, but with really baffling leadership.
Vontaze Burfict. Not Arizona State entire, just Vontaze Burfict.
Italy (not participating)
You make cars, you have really old titles, your games are in no particular hurry, and you’re pretty weird. You’re Michigan.
A relatively tiny country has made five World Cups now, all of them recent, including a top-10 finish and takedowns of a couple big names. This sounds like Boise State.
Staggering underachievement despite plenty of talent. UCLA!
You like playing in bowls, shady accounting, animals with large horns, and huge piles of money, but have just one title on the biggest stage in recent memory? Texas!
Netherlands (not participating)
A history of offensive innovation, blue-and-orange unis, and success, though not quite as much as one would expect: Florida.
Memphis? We can’t remember why we settled on Memphis as Poland. Just enjoy the poetry of “Memphis is Poland.”
Sexy in yellow, but without any titles: the Oregon Ducks, who likewise came pretty close in 2014.
Maybe the easiest pick on the board. Old money + not all that great since the middle of the previous century + a landmark figure in the history of the sport + sprawling fanbase + huge letdowns that are letdowns despite everyone seeing them coming + always on NBC = Notre Dame.
Glamorous talent, tons of style, spectacular defeats, a list of championships in various decades, a really old home stadium, and perpetually a contender? That’s USC.
Russia, the host
You’re bad, boring, and only in this thing because of your location. Russia, you are Rutgers.
United States (not participating)
Nobody ever knows who’s in charge of it, and 2017 was a sprawling disaster, but we’ve spent the last couple decades talking ourselves into it breaking through anyway, so: Tennessee.