The World Cup kicked off Thursday with a conspicuous absence from the 32-team field — the United States.
While the US team’s failure to qualify left many fans disappointed, the start of soccer’s premier showcase was still cause for celebration across the Boston area.
“It’s more that [customers] are a fan of the game than a particular team,” said Joe Queally, a bar manager at McGreevy’s in the Back Bay.
At Clarke’s at Faneuil Hall, Michael Minahan watched the tournament’s opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Even without US involvement, he was looking forward to an exciting, wide-open competition.
“I’m quietly rooting for Messi,” he admitted, referring to Lionel Messi, the Argentine superstar.
Kadir Tirmizey, another patron at Clarke’s, said he’s rooting for France, which plays its first match against Australia at 6 a.m. Saturday.
A number of pubs and sports bars are gearing up for an influx of customers.
“In the past, [the World Cup’s] been a pretty significant bump,” said Morgan Carney, general manager of Grafton Street. “It’s always brought not just business, but energy to the area.”
The Harvard Square pub has been a popular destination for soccer fans, and some new upgrades will enhance their viewing experience, Carney said.
Before the Super Bowl in February, the pub installed a 103-inch television screen. And with many World Cup games being televised in the morning due to the time difference with Russia, which is hosting the tournament, Carney said the restaurant will open earlier and offer a special breakfast menu featuring fruit, a breakfast sandwich, and quiche.
“Since a lot of games start at 8 [a.m], we wanted to cater to the earlier crowd a little bit more,” Carney said.
The restaurant will also see plenty of international fans over the course of the tournament, with Brazil, Spain, and Colombia usually showing up with sizable contingents.
“It’s such an international crowd here,” Carney said. “We’ll have some type of crowd for every game.”
One of the area’s most popular soccer bars — Phoenix Landing — will not only open for 8 a.m. games, but even the 6 a.m. match on Saturday between France and Australia.
One of the bar’s owners, Kevin Treanor said the Phoenix is already booked solid for Friday’s 11 a.m. match between Iran and Morocco and the 9 a.m. game between Argentina and Iceland on Saturday will draw a large number of Icelandic fans.
Other bars that will be showing the tournament include The Banshee in Dorchester, known as the gathering place of Chelsea supporters during the Premier League season and the Boston chapter of the American Outlaws, a club that supports the US men’s and women’s national teams; Caffe Dello Sport on Hanover Street in the North End; Lir on Boylston Street; and the Kinsale at Government Center.
The World Cup group stage runs through June 28. The knockout stage of the tournament begins June 30 and the final will take place July 15.
Marek Mazurek can be reached at email@example.com.