Three-time champion and current world #1 Brazil are the host country for the first time, with this year’s competition taking place from 30 September to 18 October.
For the first time, 20 teams will take part in the competition, including current #2 and defending champion Spain, who triumphed in Guatemala in 2000 and Chinese Taipei in 2004, and Italy, who Spain defeated 2-1 in the final last time around.
Here’s how each federation breaks down:
AFC (Asia): China, Iran, Japan, Thailand
CAF (Africa): Egypt, Libya)
CONCACAF (North America): Cuba, Guatemala, United States
CONMEBOL (South America): Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay
OFC (Oceania): Solomon Islands
UEFA (Europe): Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Ukraine
With Brazil automatically qualifying as the host nation, Paraguay, who finished 4th in the CONMEBOL qualifying tournament (which was won by Brazil), get into the tournament.
There are four groups with five teams each, and the top two in each group will go on to a second group stage with two groups of four teams. The top two from each of those two groups go on to a knockout final round.
Here are the groups below, with their respective rankings from the most recent (7 July) FIFA world rankings.
Solomon Islands (90)
United States (15)
Czech Republic (16)
Going by rank, Group B would appear to be the deepest, with two top-five sides and two former finalists (Italy and the U.S.) in the group.
Will Spain keep the winning 2008 going for their country and repeat as world champions? There could very well be a #1 vs. #2 showdown in the final, which would not only assure that only two teams continue to have the distinction of being champions of the tournament, but also be a rematch of the 2000 final, which Spain won 4-3.