World Cup watch parties spread across U.S.

Jun. 21, 2014 @ 05:05 PM

The Super Bowl might serve as one of the biggest annual watch parties in the U.S., but the World Cup appears to have turned the art of the get-together into a monthlong event for American sports fans.

From public gatherings with oversized televisions to rowdy sports bars across the United States, collective cheers and groans could be heard throughout the 2-1 win over Ghana on Monday.

Whether people are casual soccer fans or a member of the team's support group, the American Outlaws, the World Cup has provided the perfect outlet of national pride for many — with red, white and blue the only price of admission.

"There's kind of a dynamic in soccer where fans like to gather for games, and it's a little bit of a cultural sensation, probably even more so than other American sports," said Mike Gressle, U.S. Soccer's marketing director.

The U.S., fresh off its dramatic late win over Ghana, will return to the field on Sunday against Portugal and star Cristiano Ronaldo.

It will do so thousands of miles away from home in Brazil, though that small detail will hardly keep tens of thousands of American fans from making the trip to watch parties from coast to coast.

Many will do so at home, while others will show their support in public venues.

Here are five of the top places where U.S. soccer fans have staked their claim to watch-party glory:

GRANT PARK, CHICAGO: The place where the Windy City goes to celebrate sports championships (sorry, Cubs fans) is also where the U.S. Soccer Federation puts on one of its biggest parties.

Starting during the World Cup qualifying run for the U.S. last year, watch parties have become a fixture between downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan.

The site was featured heavily during ESPN's coverage of the win over Ghana, during which an estimated 10,000 fans showed up, and another large crowd is expected Sunday to watch on the 33x19 video screen.

MC TEAGUE'S SALOON, SAN FRANCISCO: San Francisco was one of the top television audiences for the U.S. win over Ghana, and local American Outlaws' chapter president Casey Proud said a capacity crowd filled Mc Teague's Saloon — where the group started watching games last year.

The Outlaws, the fan group that has grown to approximately 135 chapters nationwide since its 2007 inception in Lincoln, Nebraska, are fixtures at pubs across the country when the U.S. plays — from Jack Dempsey's in New York City to Fuel Sports Eats and Beats in Seattle.

Proud joined the Outlaws last year and said the group has helped U.S. soccer fans band together, and he expects an even larger gathering at Mc Teague's for Sunday's game against Portugal — as well as against Germany in the final game of group play for the U.S. on June 26.

If you go, prepare to be a (vocal) part of the action.

"They deal with our incessant singing and shouting and going crazy and spilling beer," Proud said. "They embraced us, and we absolutely embrace them back."

WALL STREET PLAZA, ORLANDO: This site of trendy bars, restaurants and nightclubs on one city block is no stranger to concerts, block parties and celebrations of just about any kind.

It's also the unofficial home of U.S. soccer watch parties in downtown Orlando, renaming itself "Soccer Central" when the Americans play.

Orlando City is set to join Major League Soccer in 2015, and it's the host of the party — with a 16-foot television the center of attention.

ARLINGTON CINEMA AND DRAFTHOUSE, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA: This Washington D.C.-area stalwart is likely the most unique venue on the list, combining a restaurant and old-fashioned movie theater experience into one — with oversized chairs included.

No admission is required to watch the action from Brazil on the restaurant's high-definition screen, only a little patience.

Doors open an hour before Sunday's game, likely to give time for the "Muppets Most Wanted" crowd earlier that afternoon to finish up the credits.

POWER AND LIGHT DISTRICT, KANSAS CITY: Landon Donovan didn't make the final U.S 23-man roster, but his game-winning goal against Algeria in 2010 set off celebrations across the country — including one in this downtown area that was captured on a YouTube video that's closing in on 5 million views.

Power and Light District Executive Director Nick Benjamin said as many as 12,000 fans watched the Americans in the World Cup in 2010, a fitting turnout in the soccer-crazed Kansas City area.

A 14x19 television is at the center of the action, with four other big screens turned to the action outside — as well as hundreds inside of bars and restaurants throughout the area.