For the first time in 32 years, the United States will not be competing at the FIFA World Cup.

Back in October, the Americans suffered a humiliating 2-1 defeat at the hands of Trinidad and Tobago in the final game of the CONCACAF's hexagonal qualifying round, resulting in a fifth-place finish in the table. Head coach Bruce Arena promptly resigned, and US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati did not seek re-election.

With the tournament starting on Thursday, casual American sports fans may wonder — Why should I watch if we're not in it?

It's a fair question, and one surely to have FOX Sports executives trembling upon investing a reported $400 million for the event's English-language broadcast rights, both for now and 2022.

However, there are plenty of reasons to tune in over the next month. Here's a quick list of five.

Welcome to the party!

Two nations will get their very first taste of the World Cup this summer — Iceland and Panama, one of the USA's CONCACAF compatriots.

Iceland made waves in its first major tournament appearance, the 2016 UEFA European Championship, by pulling off an upset of England and reaching the quarterfinals. Nearly 10 percent of the nation's inhabitants made the journey to France and saluted the team with an authentic "Skol" chant and Viking clap.

Panama was the primary beneficiary of the American debacle. Los Canaleros were awarded a phantom tying goal, and Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torres guaranteed his side's inaugural World Cup berth with a winner over Costa Rica in the 88th minute. He's one of six MLS players on Panama's 23-man roster.

Long-awaited returns

With a handful of World Cup stalwarts missing out, that opened plenty of spots in the 32-team field.

Peru, which features Orlando City midfielder Yoshimar Yotun, will end the longest drought of prior competitors. La Blanquirroja defeated New Zealand, 2-0, in an intercontinental playoff game back in November to punch its ticket for the first time since 1986.

Egypt returns after a 28-year hiatus, thanks primarily to Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah. Nursing an injured shoulder suffered in the Champions League final, Salah scored 44 goals in all competitions during the 2017-18 season.

A handful of other nations have waited more than a decade to take part in the World Cup, including Morocco, Senegal, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

Star power

The biggest shame in the USA's absence is not getting to see 19-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic on the globe's biggest stage. However, there are plenty of superstars heading to Russia.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, unquestionably the sport's biggest attractions over the last decade, could each be making their final appearance at the World Cup. Ronaldo guided Real Madrid to its third consecutive Champions League crown in May and was the key man in Portugal's EURO 2016 championship squad. Messi was magnificent in Brazil four years ago as Argentina reached the final, and willed his nation into the tournament despite the team's lousy qualifying campaign.

France boasts an impressive list of attacking players, including Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba. Germany enjoys an embarrassment of riches in midfield, including Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos. The world's most expensive footballer, Neymar returns from injury to lead a rejuvenated Brazil.

A new champion?

Pundits have almost universally pegged five teams as the pre-tournament favorites — reigning champion Germany, Spain, Brazil, France and Argentina.

However, given the wild nature of qualifying, might there be a surprise winner?

It's put-up-or-shut-up time for Belgium's golden generation. The Red Devils have as much talent as any team in the field, most notably Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea winger Eden Hazard and Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku. Might they be this year's version of Spain in 2010?

England lurks in the weeds with stunningly low expectations, but Tottenham star Harry Kane could lead the Three Lions on a deep run. Uruguay landed a favorable draw in Group A and have a dynamic pair of scorers (Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani) and central defenders (Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez).

Group H possesses a pair of intriguing teams in Colombia and Poland. Colombia advanced to the quarterfinals in 2014 behind Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez, while Poland will pin its hopes on Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

The host nation

What exactly will Russia bring to the table, both as the tournament host and as a competitor?

The list of concerns about Russia as a host has been well-documented, including fears of racism, homophobia and hooliganism. Travel could also be taxing, both in regards of distance and traffic. As an example, Yekaterinburg and Kaliningrad are separated by more than 1,500 miles.

On the field, Russia is the worst team in the competition, according to the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking released on June 7.

At No. 70 in the world, Russia is currently situated between Guinea and Macedonia. Fortunately, Thursday's opponent, Saudi Arabia, is the second-worst team in the field (No. 67).