By Simon & Susan Veness, ATD’s resident Florida experts
If you thought Britain had a monopoly on World Cup fanaticism and the leading interest in all things Brazilian this summer, you’d be very, very wrong.
How about this – do you know which country has sold more tickets for the World Cup, other than Brazil? It’s the USA. Do you know which country has the most hours of scheduled TV coverage? Yes, it’s the land of Uncle Sam again. And do you know who has the most sports bars ready to broadcast the event? OK, you’re probably ahead of us already!
But, in all seriousness, if you think you might be missing out on all the excitement of Brazil 2014 by being in Florida in June and July, you will definitely be in for a big surprise. Not only will it be wall-to-wall on mainstream TV, many bars and restaurants will be staging World Cup events to make every game even more enjoyable.
Just to start with, Brazil 2014 is being broadcast on no less than three different TV channels, plus live streaming on the internet, so visitors won’t miss a minute of the 64 games that are all being screened live. Every TV in every hotel and vacation home will be able to get ESPN and ABC, and most will also have ESPN2 as well, so that means you can watch at your leisure without leaving your holiday accommodation.
For the ultra-important games (i.e England’s!), the times and channels to make a note of are as follows:
* Saturday, June 14: England v Italy, coverage live on ESPN from 5.30pm Eastern Standard Time (EST), with kick-off at 6pm here in Orlando (that’s 11pm back home).
* Thursday, June 19: England v Uruguay, live on ESPN from 2.30pm EST, with kick-off at 3pm.
* Tuesday, June 24: England v Costa Rica, live on ESPN2 from 11.30am EST, with kick-off at noon.
* The second round knockout stage games (June 28-July 1) will be live on either ABC or ESPN at noon and 4pm, while the quarter-finals (Jul 4-5) will be screened by ABC ESPN and ESPN2, again at noon or 4pm, the semi-finals (Jul 8-9) on ESPN at 4pm and the final itself (Jul 13) on ABC, also at 4pm.
It all serves to highlight the fact that soccer has become BIG business in the USA, and this World Cup is likely to draw record viewing figures over here, helped by the fact the time difference with Brazil is only an hour, hence all the games will be during the day or early evening.
The US national team will get huge local support for the campaign, but England games will also be popular, as well as those of Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, all of whom typically have a lot of visitors to Florida.
Part of the reason is that Major League Soccer (MLS) has really taken off over here in recent years since the arrival of David Beckham (now retired) at Los Angeles Galaxy, and we are thrilled that our local team, Orlando City, will play their first season in MLS next year, which also helps to spread the soccer gospel (be sure to look up www.orlandocitysc.com for the latest details of their games).
But the other part is that ESPN, ABC, NBC and Fox Sports have all combined to provide great coverage of the Premier League and Champions League in the past few seasons, and the US appetite for ‘our’ football is now at record levels.
This also ensures that if you are out and about in Orlando (or other parts of Florida) this summer, there will always be somewhere that will be showing the games live on TV.
The plethora of sports bars ensures there is nearly always an option nearby if you want to enjoy the extra atmosphere of places like the Orlando Ale House (or Miller’s Ale House), Buffalo Wild Wings, Uno’s Chicago Grill, Beef O’Brady’s, Applebees, Houlihan’s, Chili’s, Hooters, Tilted Kilt, Bar Louie, BJ’s Brewhouse and Smokey Bones.
As well as all those big-name chain restaurants, there are other one-off locations to make a note of if you are in the parks or out shopping:
Walt Disney World
None of the four parks have bars or restaurants with TVs, but, if you are in Epcot, you can nip out of the International Gateway exit to the ESPN Club. Likewise, The Boardwalk area is only a short boat-ride from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where you can watch at the ESPN Club or the Big River Grille.
At the Magic Kingdom you could walk over to the Contemporary Resort and catch games at The Wave bar/restaurant on the ground floor or hop on the Monorail to the Polynesian Resort, where games will be on in the Tambu Lounge. And, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, head for the Rainforest Café at the main entrance and they will be showing games at the bar.
At Downtown Disney there is also plenty of choice, including the Rainforest Café (notably at their lakefront Lava Lounge), Splitsville, Planet Hollywood, House of Blues and Bongos. At the great Raglan Road Irish bar/restaurant, the early afternoon games will be shown in the Grand Room while the evening games will be shown in the Snug.
For Disney hotels, take your pick from:
All-Star Movies Resort – Silver Screen Spirits Pool Bar and World Premiere Food Court; All-Star Music Resort – Intermission Food Court and Singing Spirits Pool Bar; All-Star Sports Resort – End Zone Food Court and Grandstand Spirits Pool Bar.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Sanaa Lounge, Victoria Falls Bar, Maji Pool Bar and Uzima Springs Pool Bar.
Beach Club Resort – Martha’s Vineyard
Caribbean Beach Resort – Banana Cabana Pool Bar
Disney’s Contemporary Resort – The Wave
Fort Wilderness Resort – Crockett’s Tavern
Old Key West Resort – Gurgling Suitcase
Polynesian Resort – Tambu Lounge and Barefoot Pool Bar
Pop Century Resort – Everything POP Shopping & Dining
Port Orleans Resort – Riverside – River Roost
Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter – Scat Cat’s Club
At Universal Studios, games will be shown in the bar area of Finnegan’s Bar & Grill while, at the Islands of Adventure park, you should head for the Backwater Bar at Confisco Grill at the end of Port of Entry.
At Universal’s CityWalk, you are spoiled for choice, including the NASCAR Sports Grill, NBA City, Hard Rock Café, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co and Pat O’Brien’s, while games will be shown in the bar areas of all four Universal hotels.
Mall at Millenia: The Capital Grille and BRIO Tuscan Grille; Florida Mall: games will be shown on a big screen in the Mall's common area, with game updates on digital boards around the Mall; Orlando Premium Outlets: games will be broadcast on screens located near the Reebok store at the Vineland property and Tommy Hilfiger at the International Drive center; Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores: head to the neighbouring resort, where Frankie Farrell’s bar/restaurant will be showing all the games. Pointe Orlando: Marlow’s Tavern, The Pub, Tommy Bahama Café and Copper Canyon Grill.
The I-Drive water park, Wet ‘n Wild, will broadcast games in the Wild Tiki Lounge and Orlando City Soccer Club will be hosting games in downtown Orlando at The Wall Street Cantina. Finally, if you are in the Turkey Lake Road area, the unique Dewey’s Indoor Golf & Sports Grill will be World Cup Central, where all the giant-screen golf simulators can be turned into HD TV screens!
PS: Need to feed your World Cup fix on Twitter? Be sure to follow the official Twitter feeds @FifaWorldCup and @Fifacom, along with the hashtags #WorldCup and #Brazil2014!
• Think you have another great World Cup-watching spot in Central Florida? Go online to the Attraction Tickets Direct Forums and add it to the special World Cup thread here.