Kicking Around Plans for 2006?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

WHAT: The 2006 FIFA World Cup, to be held throughout Germany from June 9 to July 9. Thirty-two national soccer teams will play in 12 cities, starting in Munich and ending in Berlin. Other cities include Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Leipzig.

TICKETS: The United States, eliminated in 2002 with a loss to Germany, is likely to land a fifth consecutive World Cup appearance. The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) holds its draw Dec. 9, deciding who plays where and when .

The 3.2 million World Cup tickets are being released in a series of sales periods; tickets are randomly awarded by computer. With qualifying competitions not yet over, buying tickets is a calculated risk. Four of five sales periods remain for 2.4 million tickets: Dec. 1-Jan. 15, Feb. 1-April 15 and May 1-July 9. The second phase, which began May 2, is only for team-specific series tickets.

Single tickets are $45 to $130 until the final, when tickets are $155 to $776. Some people opt to buy team-specific series tickets. You can't buy both. You can also splurge on an official hospitality package, which starts at $2,395 per person and includes tickets to three matches in one stadium, parking and catering. Info: . Another option is to buy tickets from a broker or agency, such as RazorGator Inc. (800-852-7771, ; individual tickets from $478); (800-765-3688, ; from $395) or Euroteam (011-47-2333-3500, ; from $440).

PACKAGES: RazorGator and Ticket City offer deals that include lodging and tickets. RazorGator's least expensive option, for $4,799 per person double, includes four nights at the Holiday Inn Munich City North, breakfast, tickets to the opening match in Munich and the subsequent match in Nuremberg, and stadium transfers. Ticket City offers a one-, two- or three-city hotel add-on; $1,395 buys three nights in a four-star hotel in one city, including breakfast and a city tour., an affiliate of the U.S. Soccer Federation (877-667-5338, ), offers only packages, no tickets a la carte, from $1,595 for seven nights and two games in the same region of Germany.

GETTING THERE: Most of the 12 cities -- the exceptions being Gelsenkirchen and Kaiserslautern -- have air service. Nonstop flights from Dulles to Frankfurt or Munich are currently among the more expensive options, starting at $660 round trip. Cheaper flights with one stop are available from D.C. to the other German cities, starting at $583 to Berlin.

GETTING AROUND: With inter-city airfares costing just as much as international service, rail is the way to go. All 12 venues, from the smallest city (Kaiserslautern ) to the largest (Berlin), can be accessed by the German rail system, Deutsche Bahn ( ). The longer the jaunt, the better the value. Easiest and cheapest for city-hopping is Deutsche Bahn's German Rail Pass, available for first- or second-class seating on four to 10 travel days, chosen at random within one month. The four-day, second-class pass runs $180; 10 days, $324. Two adults traveling together get a 25 percent discount for a joint ticket. The pass is good for all routes throughout Germany and for transfers between major airports and main railway stations, as well as certain tours on the Rhine and Moselle rivers.

The official World Cup Web site offers travel information at , including details on cities, stadiums, routes, distances, public transportation and road conditions.

WHERE TO STAY: FIFA World Cup Accommodation Services http://( ) is taking requests -- by city, dates, and number of beds and stars-- and will make arrangements with one of more than 550 affiliated hotels, all within 25 miles of the soccer stadium. There is no minimum-stay requirement except for the final match in Berlin, when a three-night minimum is imposed. A list of hotels is available on request by e-mail,, or fax, 011-49-69-5095-86401.

The choices, particularly in the luxury category, run heavily to hotel chains: Dorint, InterCityHotel, Holiday Inn and Ramada -- but you can find more picturesque hotels among them.

Or venture off FIFA's list and explore a vast variety of lodgings.

In Berlin, the 33-room Hotel Augusta (Fasanenstr. 22, 011-49-30-883-5028, ) is tucked away just off the busy shopping boulevard Kurfuerstendamm. Doubles start at $120 per night in the summer, including breakfast.

INFO: ( ) is an excellent trip-planning site for soccer fans that includes links to other accommodations not listed above and more specifics on culture and transportation.

Also offering info: FIFA World Cup ( ), the German National Tourist Office (800-651-7010, ) and the U.S. Soccer Federation , ).

-- Margaret Roth

© 2005 The Washington Post Company