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Screenshot: Google Maps

As World Cup qualifiers take place ahead of Qatar 2022, one nation never even had a chance to make the field.

The big picture: The Marshall Islands — perhaps best known as a post-war nuclear testing site — is the lone country among the 195 recognized by the UN that has never played an international soccer match.

  • The sovereign nation of 60,000 in Micronesia comprises 29 atolls and five isolated islands.
  • Athletics are part of Marshallese culture, but American influence stemming from WWII occupation means basketball and baseball are among the nation's most popular sports.

Looking ahead: The newly-formed Marshall Islands Soccer Federation (MISF) hopes to change the status quo, working to get soccer into schools and building out infrastructure to make future World Cups a reality.

Yes, but: The MISF is in a race against time, as the tiny country in the middle of the Pacific is among the most at-risk nations on Earth regarding climate change.

  • That's why they're building a stadium with a giant seawall to host the 2022 Micronesian Games, providing the country not only with its first real pitch, but also with protection against rising sea levels "that represent an existential threat," per a 2021 report from the World Bank.

Go deeper: The Marshall Islands: The last country on Earth without a football team (The Athletic)

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 25, 2021 - Sports

U.S. Soccer president: “We’re on the same side” as USWNT on equal pay

Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Axios spoke with Cindy Parlow Cone, the president of U.S. Soccer (and former USWNT star), about the ongoing CBA negotiations and equal pay lawsuit.

There's a lot going on right now. Where do things stand at the U.S. Soccer Federation?

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 25, 2021 - Sports

Special report: Women's soccer stares down change

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The next few months could be among the most important in American women's soccer history, with significant change on the horizon for both the NWSL and USWNT.

The big picture: Collective bargaining agreements tend to be tedious, and lawsuits can drag on. But as 2022 approaches, that's where the action is.

Nov 20, 2021 - Sports

Player empowerment is key to the future of U.S. women's pro soccer

The Orlando Pride Starting XI prior to a game between NJ/NY Gotham City FC and Orlando Pride at Exploria Stadium on October 9, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

When the National Women's Soccer League erupted into controversy this season over a slew of assault allegations, the future of the league — and more broadly, U.S. women’s professional soccer — looked uncertain.

Why it matters: The U.S. has had three women's professional soccer leagues in two decades, with the first two each lasting just three seasons. But the NWSL may be on a different path, sports analysts and former players say. That is, if the league and its teams put players' demands and concerns front and center.