Maybe you're one of those hyper-elite soccer fans on the lunatic fringe who plans to watch the FIFA World Cup in a dark, isolated basement so your frenzied screams don't offend the ears of respectable citizens.
For the rest of us—casual bandwagon-jumpers and passionate patriots alike—there's no better time to enjoy public camaraderie and debauchery than the World Cup. The only question is, where should we meet up?
To find out, we set out on a search for the best soccer-watching bars in the Triangle. The World Cup is all about atmosphere—the pageantry, the singing, the euphoric celebrations—and our chief criterion for local venues was simple: Were they committed to celebrating the beautiful game? Generic sports bars were ruled out as we sought the perfect home for that crucial Team USA battle—and every other match from Brazil, beginning on June 12. These are our findings.
In DURHAM, we like Bull McCabe's (427 W. Main Street). With a new covered patio facing a green lawn and lined with big-screen TVs, it has both outdoor and indoor options, so whether you crave the cramped, beer-swilling confines of the wooden interior or fresh air, you'll be covered (or uncovered). Bonus points for a killer menu and the convenient Five Points location downtown.
For a different Bull City option, try Mattie B's (1125 W NC Highway 54). It's the official bar of the newly minted Durham chapter of the American Outlaws, the national team's unofficial supporters club. The owner is chapter president Matthew Beason, a fact that guarantees a strong atmosphere. (The drink specials and mid-match giveaways don't hurt, either.) The location on NC-54 could be better, but once you're inside among the painted faces and the delirium, the trek will be worth it.
What about RALEIGH? We could tell you that the London Bridge Pub (110 E. Hargett Street) is the official home of the American Outlaws Raleigh chapter, or that an eclectic drink menu and outdoor beer garden heighten the ambience, but this fact should suffice: It's the only bar on this list whose website has a World Cup countdown clock.
Jarrett Campbell is the president of Triangle Soccer Fanatics, an independent supporters club of the Carolina Railhawks, and he's been organizing soccer-watching parties in the Triangle for 11 years. "We've tried a lot of different places, and London Bridge is the place that 'gets' soccer fans the most," he says. "It's the most authentic European pub soccer experience you'll get without buying a plane ticket." He does offer one warning for U.S. and England matches, though—arrive early.
The Oxford (319 Fayetteville Street) is the bar for soccer sophisticates—discerning supporters, not hooligans—and a top choice for catching Team England. With a "TV takeover" policy for World Cup matches and a big-screen projector, along with V.I.P. group packages, half price appetizers, a variety of drink specials and bar-wide giveaways when the U.S. or England prevail, this downtown joint is an elegant alternative for those who want to party while avoiding the drunken, sweaty masses.
With a June 1 viewing party for the U.S.–Turkey sendoff match hosted by the Carolina Railhawks, Tir Na Nog (218 S. Blount Street) has already made a push to be the top soccer destination in Raleigh. It won't be the last time the Railhawks appear; the NASL lads return to give out jerseys and tickets during World Cup matches. Even if you don't leave with swag, you can enjoy the games on seven 52-inch HDTVs or a huge projection screen on the stage. There's even a private room with an actual movie screen. For sheer World Cup enthusiasm, Tir Na Nog is tough to beat.
Unlike the other Raleigh entries, which are all within walking distance of each other downtown, Trali (10370 Moncreiffe Road #109) is the Irish pub for those who live outside the beltline in regions near RDU and Brier Creek. Sure, you'll miss out on the city vibe, but Trali's drink specials and big-screen TVs will help you lose yourself in the action. There's also a new Morrisville location (3107 Grace Park Drive).
Finally, we visited CHAPEL HILL. Though Italian Pizzeria III (508 W. Franklin Street) isn't a traditional bar, it's been a terrific soccer-watching venue for years. At a minimum, we suggest stopping by for Team Italy matches, where you can see owners Angelo and Vincenzo Marrone cheer on their home country.
The two big screens on the street side easily accommodate everyone inside, and if past EPL, Serie A, and Champions League matches are any indication, it's going to be packed and exuberant for every match. With excellent eats (the brothers Marrone hail from Naples, the birthplace of pizza!) and affordable pitchers, it easily tops all competitors in Chapel Hill.Durham's Shane Ryan writes for Grantland.com and Paste Magazine. Random House will publish his book on the PGA Tour in 2015.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Goal oriented"