On Sports Media: Where to catch World Cup Fever

There’s no shortage of World Cup watch parties in the Bay Area

By Jim Williams

Special to S.F. Examiner

The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France got off to a wild start for the defending cup champions, as the United States Women’s National team crushed Thailand 13-0 in the opening of the Group F play. Next up will be a tougher opponent as they face Chile at 9 a.m. PT with the game airing on KTVU FOX 2 here in the Bay Area.

The lead network broadcast team of JP Dellacamera and Aly Wagner will have the call. Wagner is a native of San Jose, attended Presentation High School, where she was the Parade Magazine National High School Player of the Year, before she led Santa Clara to the 2001 NCAA title.

Wagner was one of the many Bay Area women who have helped evelavate the sport of soccer not only in Northern California, but nationally and worldwide. She was the youngest member of the 1998 Women’s National team where she played in both the Olympic Games and the World Cup.

Despite the early hour, watch parties are plentiful throughout the area.

At last count there are over 150 bars and restaurants from Marin County to Monterey and San Francisco to Oakland in the East Bay all looking to cash in on plenty of passionate soccer fans ready to enjoy another USA win.

Both the men’s and women’s national soccer team’s have an unofficial national fan club called the American Outlaws and the Bay Area has four very active chapters in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Santa Rosa. Located at 1237 Polk Street in San Francisco is McTeague’s Saloon — the official home the American Outlaws-SF chapter and as you can imagine they are excited about all things Women’s World Cup.

Antal Herz is the manager and the Director of Association Football at McTeague’s Saloon and he loves his relationship with the soccer community. His pub is one of the Bay Area most well-known homes for soccer fans.

“San Francisco is an amazing soccer town,” Hertz said last week. “The interest and access to viewing the sport has grown over the last few decades. In 2019 we have more access to more matches from leagues and championships around the country and around the world than we ever have. Thanks to all the streaming channels and those available via satellite, we’ve got more access than many countries that are known as big soccer nations. We aren’t the only bar that opens in the dark on weekend mornings for the English Premiership and other European leagues. That really shows some hardcore dedication from publicans and the fans that show up. But fan is short for fanatic, so that shouldn’t be a surprise.”

Herz is excited about Sunday because it will be the first weekend date for Team USA.

“The menu for Sunday is hopefully a lot of USA goals,” he said. “I’m not expecting as many as we put past Thailand, but you never know with this extremely cohesive USA squad. There will be drinking, there will be singing and chanting, and hopefully three more points for the USA. There will also be some Chile fans and there won’t be any fights, but you’ll likely see people buying drinks for fans of the opposing team. The beautiful game is great like that.”

About 10 miles to the East over in Oakland is one of the most soccer-passionate places in the Bay Area. The CommonWealth Cafe & Public House is a women-owned sports watering hole.

Lizzie Alford is the owner and her team has built a nice home for soccer fans in the East Bay.

“The vibe at the pub during matches is incredibly positive and fun, with regulars who’ve been coming here since we opened nine years ago exchanging friendly jabs with folks new to the soccer scene and this neighborhood,” said Alford. “We’re expecting a large turnout of regulars, new folks and a ton of local youth soccer players.”

But when it comes to what is on the menu on Sunday that is more of an international fare.

“I recommend a full English breakfast and Fuller’s London Pride, or try our French toast and a Spiderbites lavender cider,” Alford added.

If you are a real soccer fan who loves larger gathings and big-screen viewing, then head to the New Parkway Theater in Oakland. They will be having viewing parties for the Women’s World Cup, plus all the action for the Gold Cup and Copa America on the men’s side of the pitch,

Outdoor watch parties will begin later this week on June 20th at Sue Bierman Park in the Embarcadero where you can see the U.S. face Sweden in the final Group F match of the Cup. The outdoor big screen viewings are part of an event promotion being done by the San Francisco Parks Alliance in cooperation with the San Francisco Recreation and Parks department.

Besides the June 20 match at the Embarcadero they will host both semi final matches on June 2 and June 3 there, before moving to a larger venue — the Civic Center Plaza — for the Women’s World Cup Final.

The 2019 Women’s World Cup on FOX and FS1 has been a real ratings winner. Despite the matches being played in France — meaning there is no primetime broadcasts here — the USA over Thailand match put up impressive numbers a 2.2 rating with a very respectable 7 share of the national audience,

More good news for FOX and that is they are getting good numbers for games not involving the U.S. Last Sunday, England’s 2-1 group stage victory over Scotland had a solid rating of 1.2/3, up +33% from 2015 (Women’s World Cup in Canada) non-U.S. group stage matches on FOX, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Thus far for week one of the action in France all FOX and FS1 metered market ratings are up +10% from 2015 and +76% from 2011 in non-U.S. group stage matches. A big driver in the ratings increase comes from those who can stream the video on their connected devices, smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers.

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