GAME PLAN

9 Cities, 9 Parties for World Cup Soccer

Can't make it to South Africa for this summer's World Cup? Get into the spirit of the June 11 to July 11 tournament with big-screen viewing parties in one of these soccer-mad capitals.

If France breezes through the early rounds as expected, look for a quarterfinal showdown with another title contender, England, on July 2 at 7:30 p.m. (Owen Franken/Corbis)

BERLIN
The big party: A mile-long sea of black, red, and gold will stretch from the Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column when half a million fans fill the Strasse des 17. Juni to watch matches shown on boulevard-wide screens—all 48 of the matches from the second round through the final.

Marquee matchup: If all goes according to plan, look for an elimination-round clash between Germany and the U.S. on June 27 at 4 p.m.

Sing-along: "Auf geht's, Deutschland, schiesst ein Tor, schiesst ein Tor, schiesst ein Tor!" ("Let's go, Germany; goal, goal, goal!")

Sideline tip: For a slightly smaller party, catch first-round action (with bratwurst and pilsners) at Prater Garten, a 173-year-old beer garden with picnic-table seating for 600.

BOSTON
The big party: The largest World Cup viewing party in the U.S. will take place at Boston's City Hall Plaza, a red-brick and concrete square with one huge selling point: room for the 300,000 people anticipated to show up and watch the final at July 11 at 2:30 p.m.

Marquee matchup: Brazil, Italy, Germany, France, and Spain are the most likely contenders to make the final match. Longer shots include the U.S. Go team!

Sing-along: Stick with the universal soccer anthem, "Olé, olé, olé, olé," and you'll be fine regardless of which teams reach the final.

Spirit colors: Boston was painted red, white, and green when Italy won its fourth title in 2006—expect a crowd lopsided in that country's favor if the Azzurri reach the final again.

Sideline tip: The recently renovated Boston Children's Museum gets in on the South African excitement with a two-day festival of African food, music, and dance, June 11 and 12 (308 Congress St., 617/426-6500).

CHICAGO
The big party: The Chicago Bears' house welcomes a different brand of football, with 40,000 people expected to watch the July 11 final on the Jumbotron at Soldier Field. Admission is $20.

Marquee matchup: If the U.S. or Mexico makes the final, expect a sellout crowd closer to the stadium's 63,000-person capacity.

Sing-along: American soccer fans are still looking for their own fight song. In the meantime, chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A!" are sure to fill the air if our team reaches the championship.

Sideline tip: During the rest of game day at Soldier Field, walk around the World Cup Festival, with South African movie screenings and a French Bastille Day feast. On May 10, a couple of months before the key day, catch an early look at the Mexican team in a Soldier Field exhibition match against Senegal.

MEXICO CITY
The big party: Up to 100,000 fans will fill the Plaza de la Constitución, a square framed by the National Palace—the baroque building that serves as the seat of the federal government—and the gorgeous Metropolitan Cathedral, to watch Mexico's matches on huge outdoor screens.

Marquee matchup: Mexico is the favorite as it takes on host country South Africa in the tournament's opening game, June 11 at 9 a.m.

Sing-along: "Cielito Lindo" ("Pretty Sweetheart"), a traditional song adopted as an anthem for the soccer team: "Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores" ("Ay, ay, ay, ay, sing and don't cry").

Sideline tip: Because of the time difference, games start as early as 6 a.m. in Mexico—a headache that can be treated with a café con leche and sweet pastries from nearby Café de Tacuba. Or a cerveza from Salón Corona ($2) if you want to start the party early.

PARIS
The big party: In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, 15,000 fans will pile into the grassy mall known as the Trocadéro every match day, watching giant TVs and hoping to cheer the Blues to a third consecutive final.

Marquee matchup: If France breezes through the early rounds as expected, look for a quarterfinal showdown with another title contender, England, on July 2 at 8:30 p.m.

ANY EXCUSE FOR A PARTY


GO TO SOUTH AFRICA!
Tickets to the first-ever World Cup in Africa aren't easy to come by. But you don't need tickets to watch the 64 matches, which are being televised on giant screens in fan parks spread across South Africa, from coastal Cape Town to Polokwane in the wildlife-rich north. You'll toot vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) with locals as you take in the competition.
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