The 2014 World Cup, which is being played in Brazil, kicked off June 12, and the championship final will be played July 13. That's a month of soccer played at the highest level.
The 2014 World Cup games are airing on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ABC and ESPN Radio, and they will be on the WatchESPN app for those at work or on the go.
Excitement is high, and for those who can't afford a trip to Brazil, there are some soccer bars throughout Maryland where fans can enjoy every World Cup game with fellow supporters waiting to explode with cheers for every goal.
The World Cup is big business for bar and restaurant owners, who will aim to make the most of World Cup mania. Also making things better for bar owners and fans is the fact that Brazil is one hour ahead of Baltimore, and with games starting at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., there will be plenty of people watching games during long lunches and happy hours.
Some soccer bars and cafés in Baltimore and Annapolis have spent the last year gearing up for the event.
"We do expect more business," said Willy Dely, chief marketing officer of Slainte in Fells Point. "World Cup is like Christmas in June/July for all our soccer fans, and we expect anything from 75-100 percent increase in business on a daily basis. Baltimore is definitely a soccer town -- best TV ratings during the last Women's World Cup and No. 3 rating during this Premier League season.
"… Those are obviously evidences of people's interest in soccer. Plus, you have many indoor/outdoor soccer leagues being played every day, so many options to just pick up a game at Patterson Park, for example, and more and more bars opening early to show the games."
Michael Clarke, the owner of Claddagh Pub in Canton, talked about the importance of being at a place where fans are knowledgeable.
"I would rather be sitting in a room with four people who totally understand the game than in a stadium full of people who have no clue of what they are watching," Clarke said. "I am Italian and Irish, and growing up in east Baltimore, it is one of the nation's hotbeds for youth soccer.
"We have sent a number kids to college programs and the pros, including my cousin, former D.C. United star Santino Quaranta. We have plenty of very smart soccer fans, and they can't wait for the World Cup.
"Thirty-two countries will be represented in Brazil, and national pride for all of them will be running very high. In years past, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, England, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina have all had vocal and passionate supporters in Baltimore, and you can expect to see that again this year."
There are a growing number of fans for the United States men's national team, which will open against Ghana at 6 p.m. EST June 16 from the Estádio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. Count on there being plenty of fans for the U.S. team as it aims to advance past the group stage and make it to the knockout round of 16.
"USA is going to dominate the turnout for the World Cup," said Kyle Sullivan of Fado Irish Pub in Annapolis. "We are sure to have a variety of other groups come and support their countries, but America's fanfare will take the cake."
National pride is key for World Cup viewers, and this year, ESPN/ABC estimates are for better ratings than there were for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The combination of a time zone more to the liking of American viewers and a United States team that should be better than the 2010 edition has fans excited.
That is something Dely said he was hoping for.
"Slainte welcomes all soccer fans to cheer on their team where soccer is religion," Dely said. "This year, we are privileged for being Baltimore's only official U.S. soccer bar, and we have been the home of the American Outlaws (a national group of bars and restaurants dedicated to supporting the U.S. national team and soccer in general) Baltimore chapter since their creation four years ago."
The underlying theme of the World Cup is passion. That is a word fans use when they talk about the sport Brazilian great Pele described as "the beautiful game."
Clarke said that for his customers and his family, soccer is a way of life.
"For myself and most of our patrons, it is like this," Clarke said. "First, there are my kids, my wife and then my love for soccer. This does not begin and end with the World Cup. It is something that is part of my life 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year."
To find a soccer bar near you, visit worldsoccerbars.com.