The date: Dec. 1. The place: Pusan, South Korea. The master of ceremonies: FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen. Soccer's greatest show is the World Cup draw ceremony at which the 32 finalists will be divided into eight groups of four.
American fans will wake up on the morning of Dec. 1 to learn the fate of the United States in the 2002 World Cup.
The draw to determine the eight first-round groups will have already been held in the Pusan Exhibition & Convention Center in the Korean port city of Pusan.
Hundreds of millions of fans around the world are expected to tune in to watch FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen serve as master of ceremonies for the 90-minute program.
FIFA president Jules Rimet, who launched the World Cup, introduced the draw ceremony for the 1938 finals in his native France.
It was the job of Yves Rimet, Rimet's 6-year-old grandson, to pull the names of the 16 finalists from an urn.
All Rimet grandfils remembers of the draw is that he had to stand on the table to reach into the urns and the noise of the photographers shooting away terrified him.
"If my grandfather wasn't there," he says, "I would have fled the scene."
The World Cup draw has come a long way since then.
The 1994 World Cup draw was held in Las Vegas. FIFA conducted the '98 World Cup draw at the Velodrome Stadium in Marseilles, organizing an all-star match featuring representatives of the 32 finalists beforehand.
Ultimately, fans care little about the talent, though. They want to know who is paired with whom and where.
Defending champion France and co-hosts South Korea and Japan will be three of the eight seeds. FIFA has not announced the other five seeds.
The days when seeded teams are favored in terms of location is over. Teams will play their first-round matches in three different venues - four groups in Korea and four in Japan.
by Soccer AmericaManaging Editor Paul Kennedy