Then there's the issue of timing: When the World Cup was in Brazil in 2014, most kickoffs were at noon, 3 or 6 p.m. Eastern — perfect for a long lunch or heading straight to a bar after work. Games in Russia, however, will begin at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., not as convenient for casual viewing.
Some people — especially U.S. fans — might think it's not going to be as much fun. They're wrong. The World Cup is a tournament like no other, and if your team's not participating, this is the time to get out and enjoy the spectacle. Consider it soccer-themed study abroad: Crowd into El Patio in Rockville with Argentine fans who think that this might be Lionel Messi's year. Lift huge steins of beer on the patio at Biergarten Haus and try to learn a chant in German. Share a hot dog with underdog Iceland, who knocked England out of the European Championships in 2016 despite coming from an island with less than half the population of the District of Columbia. And who wouldn't want to celebrate with Peruvian fans at Lou's City Bar on Saturday as La Blanquirroja returns to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years? (Okay, maybe Chileans, who lost their place to the Peruvians on goal differential.)
Ben Jordan, one of the owners of the soccer hotspot the Airedale, thinks most American soccer fans will be approaching the tournament with an open mind. Sure, they'd rather be cheering for Christian Pulisic this month, but they're not going to turn their backs on the sport. “Now that it's been opened up, you'll see people openly supporting their second teams,” he says. Some will root for their ancestral countries, while others will be fans of European soccer clubs rooting for their favorite team's stars — Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard and Mohamed Salah are all hoping to have an impact in the tournament. Also, Jordan says, “the World Cup always brings out a lot of new soccer fans” who are just as interested in the atmosphere as much as rooting for the home team. This is not a tournament you should watch at home on your couch: It's an experience.
Brazil: The Grill From Ipanema turns Adams Morgan yellow when pretournament favorites Brazil plays, with caipirinhas and bossa nova music flowing before and after matches.
Colombia: When Colombia beat Uruguay in the Round of 16 in 2014, supporters leaped up and danced on the bar at Cafe Citron while confetti flew through the air. Fans will be hoping for a repeat this year. Citron serves as a viewing spot for other South American teams, too, so you can get pisco sours and caipirinhas as well as Aguila beers. And while the popular LeDroit Park restaurant the Royal is showing all matches, with happy hour during the afternoon games, it's all-in for Colombia, with food and cocktails specials during its games.
Costa Rica: Ballston's First Down Sports Bar continues to be a stronghold for the Ticos. Gallo pinto, a traditional rice and beans dish, and Imperial lager will be served during all matches.
Croatia: The Association of the Croatian American Professionals is taking over Church Hall in Georgetown, starting with Saturday's match against Nigeria.
Egypt: Fava Pot's brick-and-mortar location in Falls Church includes a large picture of soccer superstar Mo Salah on its wall, so you'd expect it to be a World Cup viewing destination. The restaurant opens early Friday for a special breakfast with an all-inclusive $25 option.
Germany: Biergarten Haus is the area's most popular destination for German fans, with TVs on a huge backyard beer garden and a rooftop deck. Just be warned: In 2014, pregame lines stretched down the block well before kickoff.
Iceland: Making its first appearance at the World Cup, Iceland should be a popular choice for anyone rooting for the underdog. Ireland's Four Courts is turning into “Iceland's home base” for the tournament, and the Arlington pub is even importing Icelandic hot dogs, which have developed a cult following among foodies.
Iran: Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was imprisoned by the Iranian government for 544 days, but he's still supporting the country's national team. Rezaian is hosting Team Melli viewing parties at the Dirty Water sports bar on H Street NE, and the first one sold out quickly. (Tickets for the second match are on sale now through Eventbrite.) The $25 ticket includes a sandwich from Chef Seb of Amoo's Restaurant and one beer, glass of wine or rail drink.
Panama: The area's only Panamanian restaurant is Esencias Panamenas in Park View, and it will be a hub of activity as La Marea Roja plays in the World Cup for the first time. "This is a big, big deal for us," says chef-owner Yarida Stamp.
Poland: Biergarten Haus, which hosted a celebration of Poland's Dyngus Day holiday in April, will also welcome Polish soccer fans for games this summer.
Switzerland: Schnappsicles. There's your reason to watch the Swiss team at Stable, Washington's only Swiss restaurant. The H Street bar will open early to show every match with Swiss food, buckets of Swiss beer and those frozen schnaps.
General soccer bars
The Airedale: Decorated with scarves and framed jerseys, the Airedale is welcoming to fans of all teams. It will be open for all matches, with breakfast buffets and a brand-new lunch menu. Also, it has a secret weapon few other D.C. soccer bars do: a rooftop deck.
Dock FC: The cool Ivy City soccer bar, known for its multiple projection screens and menu of tacos, is opening daily for 8 a.m. matches.
Fado Irish Pub: One of D.C.'s oldest soccer-viewing destinations, Fado opens for every match with giveaways and food and drink specials.
Ireland's Four Courts: One of the area's most popular pubs for watching English and Italian club soccer, the Four Courts will be open for every match with food and drink specials. Managers say they're throwing viewing parties for several different teams, including Mexico, England and Iceland, but they're open to everyone.
Lou's City Bar: Primarily catering to fans of Peru and Mexico, Lou's is still a solid option in Columbia Heights, with plenty of TVs and a special food and drink menu, including full brunch options for all games that start before noon.
Lucky Bar: The home-away-from-home for numerous league clubs and national teams, Lucky Bar opens for every match — even the 6 a.m. kickoffs — with a Russian-themed food and drink menu. (Well, except for the Suarez Bites, a meatball appetizer returning from 2014.) Because of its numerous TVs and central location between Farragut and Dupont, Lucky Bar is a very popular place for fans of all teams to watch afternoon matches.
Of note: The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration has allowed 75 bars to extend their hours and begin serving alcohol at 7 a.m. during the World Cup. See the full list and an interactive map on the ABRA website.
Pop-ups and special events
England vs. Belgium at Wundergarten: The embassies of Belgium and the United Kingdom aren't opening their doors to outsiders when England and Belgium face off on June 28, but they're joining forces to host a public viewing party at the Wundergarten beer garden in NoMa. Expect big screens, lawn games, food trucks and British and Belgian beers on tap, beginning at 2 p.m.
Field House D.C.: Imagine a soccer-themed version of the Bullpen taking over a parking lot in the shadow of DC United's soon-to-open Audi Field. Steuart Martens, who runs the annual Taste of D.C. and Drink the District beer and wine festivals, has big plans for the outdoor space, which is around three times bigger than the current Bullpen: a giant screen showing World Cup matches; beer-garden-style tables; bars pouring beer, sangria and mixed drinks; and games including foosball tables and “soccer darts,” which involves kicking balls at large Velcro targets. Consider the World Cup a dry run for when Field House's neighbors move in.
National Harbor Viewing Parties: The massive video screen on National Harbor's waterfront is regularly used for outdoor movie nights, but during the World Cup, selected matches will be shown on the 32-foot LED screen. (Some days, only one match is shown, so check the schedule before travelling there.) Chairs and blankets are welcome, and nearby restaurants sell food for picnics.
Rosslyn viewing parties: The Rosslyn Business Improvement District and DC United have joined forces to show matches on a large screen in the Central Place Plaza above the Metro station, with soccer games, foosball tables and a bar serving wine and beer. So far, the only confirmed events are for Portugal vs. Spain (Friday, 2 p.m.) and the World Cup Final (July 15, 11 a.m.), but other matches may be added to the schedule.
World Cup HQ: The former Prospect sports bar is taking on a soccer theme through the end of the World Cup. A pop-up bar called World Cup HQ is opening every day at 8 a.m. with frosé, beers, wines and a menu of “World Cup-inspired burger creations” from Lucky Buns chef Alex McCoy. Happy hour begins daily at 4 p.m., with replays of all the day's matches.