The World Cup of Soccer (Football)
The first World Cup took place in 1930, in Uruguay, but the story goes back a bit further.
Soccer (or football, as much of the world calls it) became an Olympic demonstration sport in 1900. Four years later, FIFA was formed. Soccer became an official Olympic sport at the 1908 Games, in London. (England won the gold medal that year and repeated the feat four years later.)
From the beginning, soccer was played by amateur athletes. (This was the case with most Olympic sports until recent decades.) A non-Olympic competition called the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy began in Turin, Italy, in 1909, with representatives from soccer clubs in England, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland facing off.
Momentum continued to build for a wider international competition, and the 1920 Olympic Games had 14 teams contesting the soccer gold medal. (Belgium won that one.)
FIFA, its numbers and popularity growing, began to look for its own international event. after a years, the World Cup became a reality. The first FIFA World Cup, with 13 teams onboard, took place in 1930 Montevideo, Uruguay. (Uruguay had won the gold medal at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics and was so rewarded for its prowess on the field.) A crowd of 93,000 people watched Uruguay defeat Argentina 4-2 to win the inaugural World Cup.
The Olympics dropped soccer in 1932 but returned it in 1936. The World Cup takes place every fourth year as well, in the even-numbered year in between Olympics.
The growth of the World Cup was intermittent, with the field growing to 16 and staying there until 1982, when 24 teams took the field. The current number of teams, 32, was set in 1998.
Prime barriers to true worldwide participation in past years have ranged from the benign (high cost of travel) to the severe (political disagreements and full-blown wars).
Great Britain was not part of the FIFA World Cup until 1950, partly because no World Cup was contested in 1942 and 1946.
The 2010 World Cup is taking place in South Africa, the first time that an African nation has played host to the event.
Below is a list of winners of the FIFA World Cup: