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How’s Sacramento’s Passion For A World Cup Without The U.S.?

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Soccer fans fill the inside of de Vere’s Irish Pub in Sacramento for the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup on June 18, 2018.

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

The United States failed to qualify for the men’s 2018 World Cup — is anyone in Sacramento still paying attention to games?

Some people are. Take Marcus Muñoz. At lunchtime, he was walking on 16th Street with the sounds of soccer coming from the phone in his hand.

"I got the iPhone. I got the World Cup going on right now, Tunisia playing England,” he said. “England just scored. Just trying to keep in tune I guess. I'm on my lunch, so I'm not breaking any rules.”

He wasn’t breaking any rules, but two men who were having a beer down the street at the Firestone Public House were. They would only give their names as  “Adam” and “John” to avoid detection by their employers.

They were two of a dozen people watching the morning match. While “Adam” guesses many American fans will tune out until the U.S. team returns, "John" said he expects fans to root for their closest neighbor.

"I think that you're gonna see big crowds for the Mexican team, which is great. They're playing unbelievable football now," he said.

Nielsen overnight ratings for the first day of World Cup games were down by half. But, the start times were much earlier and the earliest matchups were uninspiring.

Uninspired would describe Sue Zetlin. She was also at Firestone Public House and hasn’t watched a bit of World Cup.

"I would have preferred to watch a USA team play," she said, laughing. "We're not in it. So, I'm watching that," she added, motioning to the Arizona State versus Washington College Baseball World Series game.

Alena Aaron is the general manager of Firestone. She says traffic this year has been good enough to start opening at 8 a.m. for the remainder of the tournament.

"I don't think that having the U.S. in the World Cup is impacting if people are watching it or not. I think the same number of fans are coming out,” she said.

Next door at de Vere's, Simon de Vere White surveyed the tables and chairs full of customers.

"Business is great. It's always very exciting,” he said. As he spoke, the patrons roared with disappointment as England failed to put the ball in the back of an empty net. “England is struggling mightily right now. They can't finish."

At 11 a.m. and the place was full.

He says the traffic is certainly better than the typical weekday morning but, admits it's not the same compared to during U.S. matches from four years ago.

"People came out in droves. I mean, we would have a line out the door an hour before the match," he recalled.

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