A World Cup Full of Firsts

The World Cup is underway, and it’s already one for the history books. It’s expected that more than 5 billion people (more than half the planet) will tune in and watch the crowning event of the beautiful game. 

While this historic event has been happening for nearly 100 years, this year’s tournament has continued to shape the game and introduce new elements never before seen. Let’s take a look at some of the firsts. 

Host country

One big stat that stands out is that this is the first time the World Cup has been hosted by a country in the Middle East. Digging into the data, World Cup hosts have been concentrated in North and South America and Europe, with a few exceptions around the globe. 

Part of the reason that there are so many firsts in this World Cup is that Qatar is making a difference in how it’s managing it.  

  • Qatar is also the smallest country to ever host the World Cup. This means it’s the first time fans can reach all the venues by rail or road; they won’t have to fly across the country to get to another stadium. 
  • It’s the first time the World Cup has been hosted in the winter rather than the summer. It made sense to move it to a cooler season of the year; summer temperatures in Qatar can average 113 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • It’s also the first time the World Cup has been hosted in a Muslim-majority country. 

Largest purse and equal pay

This World Cup features the most prize money ever. The total pool is more than $440 million, and the winner will take home $42 million. And this World Cup is expected to bring in several billion dollars in revenue.

The $42 million first-place prize for the men’s event is significantly larger than what was paid out in the women’s World Cup in 2019. The winning team there received $4 million. That’s part of what led to the US national soccer teams voting on equal pay. This is the first time in World Cup history that men’s and women’s teams will pool and evenly split their prize money from their international tournaments. 


The World Cup will be played across 8 stadiums, 7 of which were built brand new. While developing new infrastructure to host a major international event is nothing new, Qatar made it a slightly more interesting data point than normal by building one stadium from shipping containers that will be completely dismantled after the World Cup. Other stadiums already have plans in place to be partially dismantled and repurposed after the World Cup is over. 

While Qatar’s claims of hosting the first carbon-neutral World Cup have been disputed, all 8 stadiums have received at least a four-star rating from the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS).

The stadiums are not without controversy. Qatar as the host country has garnered some international criticism based on its track record with human rights. The vast majority of the labor for building the stadiums came from migrant workers. 

Offside technology

Soccer has been utilizing Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in international tournaments for years. But this is the first time the technology will be used to track offsides at the World Cup. VAR has limb-tracking technology that analyzes 29 data points on each player on the field at all times. It will be used to assist referees in determining tight offsides calls, and the technology can automatically detect offsides and alert the on-field officiating crew of the penalty.


In the past, teams have only been allowed to travel with 23 players and have three substitutes. This World Cup is different (maintaining expanded rules during COVID-19 play), and each team is allowed to bring 26 players with five subs. 

Female referees

Here’s a fun data point for you: this is the first time the men’s World Cup will have female referees. Three out of the 36 referees will be women, with three additional women working as assistant referees. 

Domo data

It’s also the first time we’ve pulled together all the publicly available historical data on the World Cup and set up a Domo dashboard. You can check out the data and play around to find your own insights about the World Cup. Use it to track the results of each game, look at historical data, and analyze how this World Cup compares to those in the past. 

What other firsts will we see? Time will tell as the field continues to compete and the main storylines start to emerge. 

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