U.S. tops 2018 World Cup ticket sales to fans outside of Russia

MOSCOW -- The United States will send more visiting supporters to the 2018 World Cup in Russia than any other nation, despite the failure of the national team to qualify for the tournament.

FIFA has confirmed that 2.4 million tickets have already been sold for the 64-game competition, which will kick off Thursday when the hosts face Saudi Arabia in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

At the beginning of this week, 871,797 tickets had been sold to fans in Russia, but 88,825 ticket sales have been recorded in the U.S. since they became available to buy last September.

Brazil, favourites to win the World Cup for a record-extending sixth time in Russia, are the best-supported nation outside of the hosts and the U.S., with 72,512 tickets sold in that country.

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Despite the distances they have to travel to attend games in Russia, competing nations from the Americas dominate the top 10 in terms of tickets sold to date.

Colombia (65,234), Mexico (60,302), Argentina (54,031) and Peru (43,583) have all outsold England, traditionally one of the best-backed teams at a major tournament, who have so far seen just over 32,000 tickets bought in that country.

World champions Germany (62,541), China (40,251) and Australia (36,359) make up the top 10, with Poland, Sweden and Denmark also expected to be backed by thousands of supporters during the tournament.

The absence of Italy, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland and Chile, who were backed by 13,000 fans during last year's Confederations Cup, has raised the prospect of some games at the World Cup being played to smaller crowds than originally anticipated.