Scouting is a global movement, and soccer is a global game.

Now that the 2018 FIFA World Cup has arrived, I thought I’d offer a Scouting-focused look at the 32 countries that will battle for the big prize.

Germany, Brazil and Belgium are soccer powerhouses, but I’m more interested in which nations are Scouting powerhouses. When you trade cleats for hiking boots, which countries emerge victorious?

Sadly, the United States didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup. But with the information below, you can find a backup favorite.

The Scout Association of Nigeria has been part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement since 1961.

Go Nigeria!

Using numbers from the World Organization of the Scout Movement, of which the BSA is a member, Nigeria is the World Cup country with the most registered Scouts and volunteers.

In the Scout Association of Nigeria, which started in 1915, boys and girls complete service projects, learn to be better citizens and provide first aid in cases of disaster.

Also cool: the Nigerian soccer team’s nickname is the “Super Eagles.” Doesn’t get much more Scouty than that.

But wait, you say. Nigeria’s population is nearly 191 million, making them the second-most-populous country in this year’s World Cup (behind Brazil). Nigeria’s population is 570 times larger than that of the least populous World Cup country: Iceland, which has about the same number of people as Honolulu.

And that’s why …

Icelandic Scouts hike up Úlfarsfell, a 968-foot mountain near Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Go Iceland!

… I ranked the squads by percentage of the population in Scouting.

Looking at the data that way, a clear No. 1 emerges. Yes, it’s Iceland. In small but mighty Iceland, 1.42 percent of people are involved in Scouting.

The Icelandic Boy and Girl Scout Association has been around since 1911. Scouts are divided into age groups with some pretty awesome names: Dragon Scouts (7 to 9), Falcon Scouts (10 to 12), Court Scouts (13 to 15), Ranger Scouts (16 to 18) and Rover Scouts (19 to 25).

World Cup countries ranked by percentage of Scouts

I’ve included the United States for reference.

RankCountry Number of Scouts and ScoutersPopulation% of Scouts and Scouters
1Iceland 4,766335,0251.423%
2Belgium 105,38311,429,3360.922%
3England* 562,45466,181,5850.850%
4Portugal 81,32910,329,5060.787%
United States 2,536,872324,459,4630.782%
5Denmark 42,9275,733,5510.749%
6Nigeria 750,073190,886,3110.393%
7Sweden 36,3899,910,7010.367%
8Switzerland 24,6118,476,0050.290%
9Australia 67,49524,450,5610.276%
10South Korea 136,07950,982,2120.267%
11Costa Rica 11,4234,905,7690.233%
12Tunisia 24,07011,532,1270.209%
13Argentina 70,14044,271,0410.158%
14Spain 68,30646,354,3210.147%
15Germany 113,39882,114,2240.138%
16France 75,54764,979,5480.116%
17Poland 42,14938,170,7120.110%
18Egypt 82,94097,553,1510.085%
19Croatia 3,1544,189,3530.075%
20Japan 89,470127,484,4500.070%
21Senegal 9,85715,850,5670.062%
22Panama 2,4794,098,5870.060%
23Saudi Arabia 19,26032,938,2130.058%
24Uruguay 1,9683,456,7500.057%
25Serbia 4,8048,790,5740.055%
26Brazil 81,518209,288,2780.039%
27Mexico 45,553129,163,2760.035%
28Morocco 12,30435,739,5800.034%
29Colombia 14,15349,065,6150.029%
30Peru 8,25432,165,4850.026%
31Russia 6,395143,989,7540.004%
32Iran** N/A81,162,788N/A

Source for number of Scouts: World Organization of the Scout Movement; source for population: United Nations.

*England is competing in the World Cup, but Scotland, Wales and Ireland are not. WOSM’s data only provides the total number of Scouts in the U.K. Scout Association, so I’m including that number here, as well as the population for all of the U.K.

**Iran is one of 25 countries where Scouting exists but where there is no National Scout Organization that is yet a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

Join the world

Speaking of international Scouting, I hope you consider attending the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States. Like the World Cup, it will be a global celebration you won’t want to miss.

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