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World Cup: USA return, first fall-winter setting mark men's soccer challenge

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Forward/midfielder Christian Pulisic (10) and the United States Men's National Team will make their 2022 World Cup debut in a group stage match against Wales at 2 p.m. EST Monday in Ar-Rayyan, Qatar. Photo by Gustavo Amador/EPA-EFE
Forward/midfielder Christian Pulisic (10) and the United States Men's National Team will make their 2022 World Cup debut in a group stage match against Wales at 2 p.m. EST Monday in Ar-Rayyan, Qatar. Photo by Gustavo Amador/EPA-EFE

Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A United States Men's National Team return, a seasonal setting change, dozens of soccer stars and the priciest infrastructure ever devoted to a World Cup mark the 2022 tournament, which will start Sunday in Qatar.

The 32-team tournament will encompass 64 games in eight stadiums over four weeks, ending with the final Dec. 18 in Lusail. Games will air on Fox and FS1, with Spanish broadcasts available on Telemundo and Universo.

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"We are so thankful for any type of support we can get back home," U.S. forward-midfielder Christian Pulisic told reporters last week. "The World Cup is so special for us and the No. 1 thing Americans can watch when it comes to soccer.

"We are going to give everything we have and hope to make everybody back home proud."

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Brazil is favored to win the title, with a record five World Cup crowns under its belt. Argentina, reigning champion France, England and Spain are also among the Top 5 favorites.

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The United States is not among the Top 10 expected contenders. The Americans failed to qualify for the last World Cup, held in 2018 in Russia. They advanced past the Round of 16 just once in their last nine appearances at the tournament.

The Americans, who have never won a World Cup title, advanced to the quarterfinals in 2002 and the semifinals in 1930.

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Pulisic is among the top players for the Americans. His 52 international appearances also make him one of the most experienced players on the team. The Chelsea winger and three-time U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year logged 21 goals and 10 assists in his previous international competitions.

Defender DeAndre Yedlin is the only American player with World Cup experience. Defender Sergino Dest, midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams and forwards Brenden Aaronson, Gio Reyna and Tim Weah will be among the other players to watch from manager Gregg Berhalter's 26-man roster.

"We are sticking to the values of who we are as a team, and with what we want to accomplish in this tournament," Berhalter said. "We are ready to go. We know World Cup games are highly competitive and that winning World Cup games is very difficult.

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"That's going to set the stage for how we compete in this tournament."

Watch the stars

Host country Qatar will face Ecuador in the tournament opener at 11 a.m. Sunday EST on Fox. Pulisic and the Americans will start their run with a group stage match against Wales at 2 p.m. Monday on Fox.

They will face England at 2 p.m. Nov. 25 on Fox. They will wrap up the group stage against Iran at 2 p.m. Nov. 29 on Fox.

Argentina's Lionel Messi, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne, Poland's Robert Lewandowski, Brazil's Neymar Jr., Croatia's Luka Modric and France's Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema will be among the most-notable players in this year's tournament.

Argentina will open the tournament against Saudi Arabia at 5 a.m. Tuesday on FS1. Mexico will face Poland at 11 a.m. Tuesday on Fox. France will meet Australia at 2 p.m. Tuesday on Fox. Croatia will face Morocco at 5 a.m. Wednesday on FS1.

Belgium will play Canada at 2 p.m. Wednesday on Fox. Ronaldo and Portugal will face Ghana at 11 a.m. Thursday on the same network. Neymar and Brazil will battle Serbia at 2 p.m. Thursday on Fox.

The top two teams from each of the eight groups will advance to the Round of 16 knockout stage. Round of 16 games will be Dec. 3 to 6.

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Quarterfinal matches will be Dec. 9 and 10. The semifinals will be Dec. 13 and 14, a few days before the title game.

Dry setting, menu

Stadium capacities for the tournament range from 40,000 to 80,000. Seven of the eight venues were recently constructed as part of Qatar's estimated $300 billion investment since being named host in 2010.

The new, futuristic facilities appear mirage-like, surrounded by dessert sands spilt above the Persian Gulf.

Qatar's typical dry air remains, but a decision to have the tournament in November and December, instead of its standard summer date, will provide respite for the estimated 1.5 million fans expected to be in Qatar for the first World Cup ever hosted in the Middle East.

The high daily average temperatures for July in Qatar is nearly 107 degrees. November and December temperatures range from an average of 70 to 76 degrees.

Most fans looking to quench their thirst at the games won't be able to purchase alcohol inside any of the eight stadiums. FIFA -- the global governing body for soccer -- announced that policy Friday.

"Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar's FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeter," FIFA said in a statement.

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The last-minute change was just the latest audible for organizers, who announced in August that the tournament would start one day earlier than planned. FIFA announced the tournament's June-July to November-December date change in 2014.

2022 World Cup

Game times in EST

Sunday

Qatar vs. Ecuador at 11 a.m. on Fox

Monday

England vs. Iran at 8 a.m. on FS1

Senegal vs. Netherlands at 11 a.m. on Fox

USA vs. Wales at 2 p.m. on Fox

Tuesday

Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia at 5 a.m. on FS1

Denmark vs. Tunisia at 8 a.m. on FS1

Mexico vs. Poland at 11 a.m. on Fox

France vs. Australia at 2 p.m. on Fox

Wednesday

Morocco vs. Croatia at 5 a.m. on FS1

Germany vs. Japan at 8 a.m. on FS1

Spain vs. Costa Rica at 11 a.m. on Fox

Belgium vs. Canada at 2 p.m. on Fox

Thursday

Switzerland vs. Cameroon at 5 a.m. on FS1

Uruguay vs. South Korea at 8 a.m. on FS1

Portugal vs. Ghana at 11 a.m. on Fox

Brazil vs. Serbia at 2 p.m. on Fox

Nov. 25

Wales vs. Iran at 5 a.m. on FS1

Qatar vs. Senegal at 8 a.m. on FS1

Netherlands vs. Ecuador at 11 a.m. on Fox

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England vs. USA at 2 p.m. on Fox

Nov. 26

Tunisia vs. Australia at 5 a.m. on FS1

Poland vs. Saudi Arabia at 8 a.m. on FS1

France vs. Denmark at 11 a.m. on FS1

Argentina vs. Mexico at 2 p.m. on FS1

Nov. 27

Japan vs. Costa Rica at 5 a.m. on FS1

Belgium vs. Morocco at 8 a.m. on FS1

Croatia vs. Canada at 11 a.m. on FS1

Spain vs. Germany at 2 p.m. on FS1

Nov. 28

Cameroon vs. Serbia at 5 a.m. on FS1

South Korea vs. Ghana at 8 a.m. on FS1

Brazil vs. Switzerland at 11 a.m. on Fox

Portugal vs. Uruguay at 2 p.m. on Fox

Nov. 29

Ecuador vs. Senegal at 10 a.m. on Fox

Netherlands vs. Qatar at 10 a.m. on FS1

Iran vs. USA at 2 p.m. on Fox

Wales vs. England at 2 p.m. on FS1

Nov. 30

Tunisia vs. France at 10 a.m. on Fox

Australia vs. Denmark at 10 a.m. on FS1

Poland vs. Argentina at 2 p.m. on Fox

Saudi Arabia vs. Mexico at 2 p.m. on FS1

Dec. 1

Croatia vs. Belgium at 10 a.m. on Fox

Canada vs. Morocco at 10 a.m. on FS1

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Japan vs. Spain at 2 p.m. on Fox

Costa Rica vs. Germany at 2 p.m. on FS1

Dec. 2

South Korea vs. Portugal at 10 a.m. on Fox

Ghana vs. Uruguay at 10 a.m. on FS1

Serbia vs. Switzerland at 2 p.m. on FS1

Cameroon vs. Brazil at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 3

Round of 16 at 10 a.m. on Fox

Round of 16 at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 4

Round of 16 at 10 a.m. on FS1

Round of 16 at 2 p.m. on FS1

Dec. 5

Round of 16 at 10 a.m. on Fox

Round of 16 at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 6

Round of 16 at 10 a.m. on Fox

Round of 16 at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 9

Quarterfinals at 10 a.m. on Fox

Quarterfinals at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 10

Quarterfinals at 10 a.m. on Fox

Quarterfinals at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 13

Semifinals at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 14

Semifinals at 2 p.m. on Fox at 2 p.m. on Fox

Dec. 17

Third-place game at 10 a.m. on Fox

Dec. 18

Final at 10 a.m. on Fox

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