Learn to Watch the World Cup Like a Pro

College soccer coaches discussing potential recruits

It’s that time again: The World Cup is upon us! Every four years, the top 32 teams in the world compete against each other in a month-long tournament to determine which nation is the best in soccer. This journey to glory is comprised of 64 matches, providing ample opportunities to become a true student of the game. While it's great to watch the World Cup for entertainment, here's how to watch the right way, and why watching games in their free time gives players – including professionals – a major advantage.

Watch with Intent: Pick a Player

Simply turning on a soccer game does not a true learning experience make. As with many things, you’ll get the most out of this viewership experience by setting an intention. For example, watch a player who plays your position to see how they move both offensively and defensively, with and without the ball. Doing this will help you to see the game in a different way, and if you’re able to pause, rewind, and replay, it will only boost the benefits.

Watch with Intent: Choose a Theme

Alternatively, you can focus on a team’s formation, set plays, and specific situations, like 1v1 defending. Use feedback from your club/DA coaches and from ID camps to determine which aspect you should focus on. Watching professionals (usually) gives you the opportunity to see various tactics executed successfully, which can help you to translate and implement it the next time you’re on the pitch.

Learn to Trust

Trust is absolutely critical to any team’s success. Players must trust each other to perform as they’ve practiced and they must trust their coach’s vision for the team. It’s easy to pinpoint the teams that display the most trust; they’re typically underdogs who upset the Goliaths of the tournament. Iceland’s tie with Argentina is a prime example of the importance of trust. Iceland, a country of just over 300,000 people, managed to tie a former 2-time World Cup champion and render ineffective one of the game’s greatest players, Lionel Messi. The commitment of each player to executing Coach Hallgrímsson’s game plan required absolute faith and resulted in one of the most memorable games of the tournament thus far.

Gain Psychological Strategies

Games, showcases and ID camps bring with them tons of recruitment opportunities, nerves, and pressure. Players would benefit greatly from viewing the game from a psychological perspective by trying to analyze how these professionals stay calm and play so skillfully despite the immense pressure of the World Cup. How do teams respond to going down a goal? To going down a player after a red card? Watch carefully to try to answer that question for yourself and take the risk of applying your findings in your next game.

The World Cup is a great time to make watching soccer a part of your routine, however, to maximize the benefits you should continue studying the game regularly. Make it a goal to watch at least one game a week with a specific intention; if you’re crunched for time, search for a highlight video to focus on a specific skill or player. It’s a simple but effective way to continue your development as a player and can help give you the edge you need to take your game to the next level.

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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at

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