As the World Cup tournament gets underway this week, Brazil is ranked Number 2 and is playing a beautiful game. Among its stars is Neymar. (Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images)

The men’s World Cup soccer tournament begins Thursday in Russia. The United States team will not be playing because — for the first time since 1986 — it failed to qualify. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit out the world’s biggest sporting event.

You just have to find another team (or teams) to root for. How do you do that? Here are some suggestions.

Ancestors: Almost every family in the United States has relatives who lived in another country before moving to America. The United States is a country of immigrants.

This World Cup may be a good time to ask your parents or grandparents about your family history. What country or countries did your ancestors come from? How long ago did they move to America?

The answers may give you some fascinating stories you have never heard. And they may help you find a new favorite team.

Iceland: This tiny island nation near Greenland has a population of less than 350,000. Iceland is the smallest country ever to qualify to play in the World Cup.


Salem Al-Dawsari of Saudi Arabia soars toward the ball over Germany’s Joshua Kimmich during a June 8 match. Germany won the last World Cup, in 2014. (Martin Meissner/AP)

To give you some idea how small Iceland is, the United States, with a population of about 327 million, has almost 1,000 times as many people as Iceland. Washington, D.C., has about twice as many people.

Iceland may be small, but the men’s team is good. It’s ranked 22nd in the world. So if you like to root for the “little guys” against the “big guys,” root for Iceland.

Germany: My problem with soccer is that there is not enough scoring. Too many games end up 1-0 or even 0-0.

Scoring goals is not a problem for the defending World Cup champion, Germany. The Germans have been the highest-scoring team in the past three World Cup tournaments. They also scored 43 goals in the 10 games in their World Cup qualifying tournament.

Believe me, no team attacks the goal on the soccer pitch like the Germans.

Favorite players: Lots of kids watch matches on television from the major leagues in Europe such as the Premier League in Britain and La Liga in Spain. Those leagues have most of the world’s top players.

In the World Cup, those players represent their countries instead of their football clubs. But you can still root for your favorite players such as Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Neymar (Brazil) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt).

My favorite? Fred! He’s a midfielder on the Brazil national team. (Lots of Brazil’s players go by one name.) Brazil is ranked Number 2 in the world and plays a beautiful game.

I think I may have found a new favorite team. Viva Brazil!