Created in 1904 with seven member nations, FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Associations) is the international governing body of soccer. Soccer is the most widely watched and played game in the world. FIFA organizes the World Cup, which takes place every four years.
In many ways, the development of FIFA follows the organization of the sport of football/soccer itself. At the start of the twentieth century it was primitive in its organization and loosely structured. However, by the end of the century, FIFA had affiliations in all six continents, with over 170 member countries. Alongside the International Olympic Committee, FIFA is the largest sports organization in the world.
At the time of FIFA’s creation, soccer had gained a following in several countries, in large part due to British settlements. It was not until 1863 that the sports of soccer and rugby were formally separated in England. While both sports were important in British culture in the nineteenth century, it was soccer that took off around the world at a much more accelerated rate. As the twentieth century progressed, countries like Holland, Germany, Spain, Brazil, and many others became as good as, and in many cases better at the game than, the founding country.
The World Cup began in 1930 in Uruguay. By then, FIFA had attained enough power and the game was so widespread that a world championship was justified. By the time the 1998 World Cup was staged in France, 112 countries competed. Despite the sport originating in England, that country did not win a World Cup until 1966.
One notable exception to the soccer fanaticism that is seen in many countries around the world is the U.S.A. There has always been a problem developing soccer in the country that dominates so many other professional and amateur sports. One of the main reasons for this is the country is inundated with its professional sports system. For one reasons or another, the U.S.A. has opted for sports traditionally played in relatively few countries: American-style football, basketball, and what many consider to be the quintessential American sport, baseball. There is also the problem soccer presents for American television networks.
Successful sports in the U.S.A. have usually been ones appropriate for commercial television. Soccer, with its two 45-minute halves and long, uninterrupted play, is less than ideal for commercials and advertising-based American television.
The most recent evolution in soccer has been in the women’s game. The 1999 Women’s World Cup held in the U.S.A. was an unqualified success. Indeed, FIFA’s president proclaimed that “the future of football is female.”