The 2014 World Cup is going strong as the field is being dwindled down to the best of the best. When the tournament began there were thirty two teams vying for the illusive FIFA World Cup Trophy but when all is said and done there can only be one victor claiming the trophy to bring home to their nation.
The FIFA World Cup Trophy is one of the most difficult to win in sports but it’s not alone in the discussion of which is the toughest to claim. After much consideration and deliberation let’s go down the list to see which professional sports trophies are the most coveted but hardest to earn.
One of the oldest and most iconic trophies in professional sports, the Stanley Cup is widely considered the most difficult to win. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are an eight-week marathon that test the limits of even the best hockey players in the world. One of the reasons that people who aren’t big fans of ice hockey still happily tune in to watch the NHL postseason is that in every single playoff game you get to see players putting forth their maximum effort every time they touch the ice.
Compared to the regular season, the competition level during the Stanley Cup Playoffs get exponentially more difficult and exciting. Players know that every team that qualifies for the postseason has a chance of winning the cup, regardless of how they did during the regular season. Once you make the playoffs, all bets are off. The first team to sixteen wins gets to hoist the cup. Any team can get hot and make a run at the Finals, whether it be through an impressive scoring streak or a goalie that catches fire at the right time.
Anyone who plays professional hockey has a dream of raising the Stanley Cup above their head and seeing their name etched in the 34-pound silver chalice. Once your name goes on the cup it stays there forever.
Vince Lombardi Trophy
There is a reason that the Super Bowl is one of the most watched events in all the world. The NFL is one of the most competitive leagues there is and the physical toll it takes on its players is no joke. The NFL season is much shorter than most, lasing only sixteen games. This makes every game much more important than other sports where the seasons may last anywhere from 82 games (NHL and NBA) to 162 games (MLB). NFL teams cannot afford to have a bad game because with so few on the schedule, there aren’t many opportunities to make up ground.
When teams are fortunate enough to make it to the NFL Playoffs the margin for error shrinks down to almost nothing. Unlike all the aforementioned sports, the NFL postseason is single elimination. One and done. A team can have a perfect season and enter the playoffs with no losses to their name but one bad game and it’s all over. That’s the thing about the NFL, teams can go years without making the playoffs but one good season is all it takes. On the flip side, there are teams that make the playoffs seemingly every year but can’t get over the hump and reach the Super Bowl.
FIFA World Cup Trophy
Let’s crunch the numbers. The World Cup happens only once every four years. There are over 200 nations that compete for a spot in the tournament. Of those 200-plus teams there are only 32 that will qualify to play in the World Cup. If your team is lucky enough to make it into the tournament, just half of the qualifying teams will make it past the initial group stage into the knockout rounds. At that point, like in the NFL, its single elimination. One and done.
Truly, winning the World Cup is one of the most difficult tasks in all of sports. Every four years the entire globe focuses on this soccer tournament, creating enormous amounts of pressure for the teams involved. In 2006 there was an estimated cumulative audience of 26.29 billion (that’s billion with a ‘B’) for the World Cup. The final match was watched by an estimated 715.1 million people which represents a ninth of the population of the entire planet.
The World Series is one of the longest standing championship series’ in professional sports. There have been 109 World Series’ dating back to 1903 and while Major League Baseball has grown to its current size of 30 teams, the MLB playoffs have always been one of the more difficult postseasons to qualify for. From the beginning of professional baseball in the late 1800’s up until the 1968 MLB season, the World Series simply featured the two best teams at the end of the regular season playing in a best-of-seven format.
Starting in 1969 when the league expanded to a total of twelve teams, MLB added a second round to its playoffs and called it the League Championship Series. The LCS was originally a best-of-five but that was changed to a best-of-seven starting in 1985.
This lasted until 1994 when due to further expansion and league realignment, it was decided that a wild-card playoff team would be added to each league (American and National) creating a third round to the MLB playoffs, called the Divisional Series which is a best-of-five. This expanded the amount of playoff teams from four to eight, still making the baseball playoffs one of the more difficult to reach.
In 2012 a further expansion was made, adding a second wild-card team to each league. The two wild-card teams play in a one-game playoff to see which will qualify for the Divisional Series. Considering the level of difficulty to reach the postseason and the limited amount of games to try and advance, the World Series is a tough egg to crack.
Triple Crown Trophy
When it comes to degree of difficulty, there can be little argument that the Triple Crown is the toughest accomplishment to reach in sports. Considered the pinnacle achievement in horse racing, the Triple Crown Trophy has not been awarded since Affirmed swept the trio of races in 1978.
One of the things that makes winning the Triple Crown so hard to do is that the three different races are held in three different race tracks. Thoroughbred horses can excel at different tracks depending on the surface and distance. While the three Triple Crown races are all held on a dirt surface, they are all different lengths which is why there have been so many horses that have won two of the three races but have been unable to capture all three.
A horse can be good at sprinting shorter distances or at enduring longer tracks but its rare when you see a thoroughbred that can shine at both. The closest we have come to having a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed was in 1998 when Real Quiet won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before losing the Belmont Stakes by a nose. Since the year 2000 there have been six horses that won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes only to lose or withdraw from the Belmont Stakes with the most recent being California Chrome in 2014.