Kicking off Thursday with a match between Croatia and host country Brazil, the 2014 FIFA World Cup has no shortage of compelling story lines, especially for fans of the U.S. national team.
Did Coach Jurgen Klinsman make the right decision leaving Landon Donovan off the 23-man roster? Will an American forward finally score a World Cup goal after a 12-year drought? Does the U.S. team stand a chance in its “group of death” with Germany, Portugal and Ghana?
Here’s another question to mull over in anticipation of the world’s most popular sporting event. What are the best local spots for watching matches with other festive fans?
As the recent sellouts for Republic FC home games have shown, Sacramento has a surfeit of soccer enthusiasts. During the 2010 World Cup, our city ranked in the top 10 for ESPN/ABC Nielsen ratings nationwide.
Whether you’re eager to see what will become of the U.S. men’s national team or you’re a supporter of another squad, these bars and restaurants will be ready to fill your Cup.• Bonn Lair
3651 J St., Sacramento
For the past 20 years, this J Street pub has been open for all World Cup games, even at the earliest hours. Small and quaint, Bonn Lair is littered with European pennants, jerseys and flags donated by patrons who have been loyal to team and sport for their entire lives. The space is intimate with only two large screens, so arrive early if you want a seat. David Boyet, the owner, said that breakfast will be served for the morning games. While he has seen rival fans from many countries enter his bar to enjoy the competition (and Bonn Lair’s comprehensive selection of bottled and draft beers), Boyet doesn’t tolerate trash talk, so keep it clean.• The Davis Graduate
805 Russell Blvd., Davis
When Spanish football player Andres Iniesto scored the goal that would give Spain its first World Cup title in 2010, the enthusiastic fan reaction at The Davis Graduate was featured on ESPN. Rosendo Garcia, a soccer fan and Graduate regular, said watching games there is like sitting in an “ultra” section at a stadium, typically where the most rowdy fans gather to cheer for their team. The Graduate houses one 15-foot screen and five other large monitors to view the games. First-timers to the Graduate will find fans for teams spanning the globe, including Brazil, Switzerland, Germany and, of course, the United States.• de Vere’s
1521 L St., Sacramento
217 E. St., Davis
De Vere’s is the home base for the Sacramento Republic FC and countless diehard fans awaiting the World Cup. Spectators can catch the games at any angle from the pub’s nine mounted screens. During matches, de Vere’s acoustics can make it feel stadium-like, with patrons encouraged to let loose, said manager David Walsh.
For those who are thirsty, de Vere’s features more than 200 whiskeys and 32 handles of beer. Owner Henry de Vere said that while he’s rooting for the U.S., “all teams are welcome and all jerseys are accepted.”• Hot Italian Pizza & Panini Bar
1627 16th St, Sacramento
With its urban European aesthetic – including a new Fiat sitting parked across from the bar – Hot Italian doesn’t shy away from what team it has its money on, said regular Bob Rogan, who watched the World Cup there four years ago. Hot Italian will be opening early for all U.S. and Italy games, owners said. Games will be broadcast live on a projector screen. In the spirit of the World Cup, local artists will be hand-painting soccer balls for an upcoming silent auction held at Hot Italian to benefit the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission.• Zocalo
1801 Capitol Ave., Sacramento
Zocalo is preparing for “one long party” from Thursday to July 13 for fans of Argentina, Mexico and Spain, said manager Noe Hernandez. Last time, 600 fans packed the restaurant in the final match between Spain and the Netherlands.
This year, patrons will be treated to several parties hosted by local radio stations. Other offerings will include food and drink specials and samba dancers for July 13’s championship game. The large, airy bar features several TVs, and the banquet room will be equipped with a large plasma television.