S occer fandom in the United States has never been easy with weird local scheduling to keep up with Euro time zones, and other sports crowding the field.
The one ray of hope has always been the World Cup. Casual observers could peek over the wall for one month every four years and root for a unified American team. It was minimal investment, the team to root for was clear, and it made engaging with soccer fun without the burden of having to learn the nuances of how English Premier League works.
The US men’s national team had qualified for seven straight World Cups before they narrowly (and maddeningly) didn’t qualify this year. But there are still myriad nations to celebrate with, and no better place than the international mecca that is NYC to find your ideal soccer bar. We even have spots dedicated to specific countries’ fans. These are all of the best places to watch the 2018 World Cup in New York City. We’ll also update this closer to the tourney when we get more details on such vital information as drink specials.
Thrillist's Best (and the Rest): What You Actually Need to Know About Natural Wine
Best for the Rest:
Citywide France plays Croatia at 11am on Sunday, July 15th After a month of surprises, upsets, heroes, and floppers, the quadrennial World Cup comes down to France and Croatia. Francophiles can toss their berets at Bar Tabac in Brooklyn, The French Institute Alliance Française on the Upper East Side, Benoit on the west side, and Felix downtown. Croatiatiators can watch at Studio Square in Long Island City, Kafana in the East Village, or at GMT Tavern in Greenwich Village -- a British tavern with no raison d’être.
Best for real soccer heads with a focus on England: Banter
Williamsburg With the city’s glut of British and Irish pubs, fans of English Premier League soccer never want for options. Yet no pub does it with the same dedication as Banter. Banter Bar has been the focal point of Williamsburg’s EPL scene for years, and they throw French, German, Italian, Spanish, and other leagues in the mix, too. Fans of clubs from around the world cheer their squads here. Banter’s veritable library of whiskeys, great beers (typically with one import beer like Carlsberg on special), and food options (paninis, pretzels, sausages) make it a neighborhood bar where you can camp out long enough to actually forge a community. Specials: $3 Carlsberg; $3 craft beer of the week; $5 well drinks; team jersey raffles
Best for fans of Germany, giant steins of beer: Loreley
Lower East Side In the crowded market of German biergartens screening the World Cup, the top choice really is a toss-up. Radegast, Zum Schneider, and Loreley (among many others) are all great, but Loreley’s menu gives it the edge. Of course, they’re showing all the Germany games on 13 giant indoor screens, and they have a heated outdoor area, a big selection of German beers, and lively crowds -- all de rigueur. But with a special World Cup menu featuring foods from such soccer-mad lands as Spain, Italy, France, and England, they’re really going above and beyond to get in the spirit. Their German World Cup Sandwich is even served on a “soccer roll.” Specials: Free admission; World Cup menu featuring foods from Germany, Spain, Italy, France, and England
South Williamsburg The brightly decorated, adorably adorned Miss Favela is a true slice of Brazilian culture in South Williamsburg. And if you know anything about Brazilian culture, you know how inextricable it is from futebol. This no-reservations barroom fills up quickly. Beat the crowds, and you’ll be rewarded with Brazilian dancers, live samba music, delicious food and drink options, and three screens of World Cup watching. Specials: Cash only. The opposite of a special. Sorry.
Best for fans of Colombia with an affinity for kitsch: Basurero
Astoria Spanish for dump, Basurero’s interior flies over the low bar set by the Colombian restaurant/bar’s monkicker. But seriously, there’s a bunch of junk in here. Why not hang a tuba from the ceiling? Or go nuts with some bicycles? Throw some garland up there and you’ve got yourself a party. Pull up a mismatched barstool and watch the matches on a 100’’ projector screen and 19 televisions. Specials: Weird Instagrams with the bathroom mannequin
Best for the soccer fan who doesn't want to think too hard: Smithfield
Flatiron You could have a list of where to watch soccer in NYC without Smithfield, but then half the comments would be like, “what about dmithfield’s tho?” [sic]. This is an NYC soccer institution, where Thrillist pals John Strong and Alexi Lalas from FOX Sports caught the MLS games last year. Smithfield hosts more than a dozen fan clubs from teams as disparate as the Portland Timbers and Bayern Munich. So if you’re a France fan without a home, or if you’re just looking for a madhouse experience with hordes of passionate soccer fans, Smithfield is your jam. Check their schedule here Specials: $5 cans of Modelo; $6 cans of Carlsberg and Bitburger; $10 “Deer and a Beer” -- a can of Modelo and a shot of Jagermeister
Woodside Everybody knows that Queens is the city’s meltiest pot, and the stretch between Woodside and Jackson Heights is as diverse as any patch on the planet. Soccer being the international sport that it is, neighborhoods rich with immigrant populations will naturally cater to soccer fans. The Halfway Line is among many Woodside sports bars screening the games. They’ll be doing it with eight plasma screens and a nice little patio, should you need a breather. Specials: 3 bottles for $10, Monday-Friday
Best for Park Slope stroller moms who love screaming at the television: Woodwork
Prospect Heights The big Midtown sports bars always make these lists because they’re focal points for a number of fan clubs, with space for dozens of screens to play every match. In the outer boroughs, you’ll find much more laid-back, welcoming spots suited for passionate, dedicated fans of the sport itself. Neighborhood-y Woodwork (like Banter Bar to the north) is the epicenter to the soccer community in its corner of Brooklyn. Specials: The Fuckit Bucket (five beers for the price of four); choose your own adventure (any $4 beer with any well shot for $8)
Astoria Part cultural center, part bar-restaurant, Astoria’s Circulo Español has become the de facto home for fans of the Spanish national team. Spanish transplants and lovers of their culture can root for their team among comrades while sipping sangria and dining on paella and grilled octopus, all in surroundings reminiscent of home. This is the only place where you can stick around after a match and take a dance class in the center’s grand ballroom. Specials: $5 Spanish beers
Midtown East Like Smithfield, the Football Factory at Legends in Midtown East is a bona fide soccer haven. It boasts one of the largest collections of soccer memorabilia in the country; screens more than 100 matches each week from nearly a dozen leagues; and hosts more than 30 team clubs. Couple that fervency with beer and classic bar food, and you’re looking at massive, passionate crowds filing in to watch the World Cup. Check back for drink specials
Best for Anglophiles who woke up early for the Royal Wedding: ChipShop
Brooklyn Heights The Union Jack is festooned to the ceiling, an England banner hangs behind the bar, and the place has 16 different British drafts, God save the queen. ChipShop screens English footie year-round, and the scene naturally kicks up come World Cup time. “Health-conscious Americans” can order sundry fried fish options baked in white wine instead, but maybe save that for the US Open. Check back for specials
Sunset Park An Irish pub located in the city’s largest Chinatown on a stretch that was once a Norwegian enclave; nothing speaks to Brooklyn’s internationalism quite like The Soccer Tavern. This understated, cash-only neighborhood dive is full of years-long regulars and soccer fans from all corners of the world. Combine your watch party with a dim sum field trip: There are abundant Chinese food options nearby. Specials: $4 Domestic beer, $5 imported beer, $5 for mixed drinks during the game, maybe some free shirt giveaways?
DUMBO Welcoming all the fans who can fit, the DUMBO Improvement District brings the World Cup to the supersized semi-outdoor screen in the cavernous arch under the bridge for the fourth quadrennial in a row. Pack a picnic, order delivery, or hit up a nearby street vendor. Specials: “No alcohol allowed.”
Midtown Times Square is no one’s first choice as a destination, unless you’re looking for a musty 6-foot Elmo to snuggle. But old New York holdovers like Jimmy’s Corner, Margon, and BXL Cafe have long been bucking the area’s Disneyfication. BXL Cafe, in particular, has been trading in Belgian delights for nearly 15 years with its beer and food. It’s also a soccer bar and will screen the World Cup for the Midtown after-work set and homesick Belgians alike. Belgian beer deals
Best for fans of authentic Mexican fare and fútbol: Guadalupe Inn
Bushwick Bushwick’s self-proclaimed “home for World Cup soccer” opens early Friday-Sunday throughout the tournament. From 10am, fans can “work from home” with all manner of margarita (grapefruit, watermelon, mezcal pineapple, lime) and tacos (vegetarian, chicken, pork, steak, fish) in a swanky, supper club-like environment with multiple projection screens and a killer sound system. Specials: “Viva Mexico” quesadillas are green, white, and red
Elmhurst There are a few Argentinian bar-restaurants in NYC (Buenos Aires in Alphabet City is especially noteworthy), but none go as over-the-top as Elmhurst’s Boca Junior. I mean, it’s literally named after a football club in Buenos Aires. Its aesthetic screams fandom: Walls are tiled with team photos and jerseys, flags hang from the ceiling, and the team’s yellow and blue are everywhere. Hinchas will feel right at home. Check back for drink specials
Bushwick Now in its third year, this multi-purpose indoor/outdoor venue straddling Bushwick and Ridgewood hosts dance parties, film screenings, Pride BBQs, literary events, and now World Cup matches from June 15 (Portugal vs Spain) through the tournament. One half of Nowadays’ founders hails from Northern Ireland, so you may perceive a UK slant here, but the general vibe is regionally agnostic. A food truck slings Caribbean bites like jerk chicken thighs, spicy salt fish, and plantains. Entry is free and dogs and kids are welcome. (Dogs outdoors; kids wherever.) Specials: Happy hour doesn’t overlap with any of the match times, but Nowadays has plenty of beers in the $5-$7 range
Harlem African countries have had an interesting go at the World Cup lately, none better than Senegal’s out-of-nowhere run to the 2002 quarterfinals, a run that included a first-round win over France, the defending champs. Well, Senegal are back and looking to recapture the magic. There’s no better place to root for the underdog (as well as the other African countries in the tournament including Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Nigeria) than Harlem Tavern. Located in Harlem’s Little Senegal, this neighborhood staple features abundant outdoor seating, an elevated bar food, and, of course, all the matches. Check back for drink specials
Best for non-fans who just want to catch that one game: Vintage 61
South Street Seaport Named for a year that brought favor both to the world of sports (the New York Yankees) and wine (the Bordeaux region), this wacky mashup is a World Cup destination for folks who are otherwise blasé about the matches. A large but unostentatious flat screen sits flush against the mirror behind the sleek bar, and tasteful murals harken back to classic moments in sports, without shouting about them. Specials: Beer buckets of five cans for $20; beer buckets of five bottles for $25; rosé on tap for $6
Find out where to watch the World Cup games with all the soccer fans in your city with our list of the best World Cup bars in LA, SF, Chicago, DC, Miami, Houston and more.
Sign up here for our daily NYC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.
Erik Helin is the only Brooklyn-based freelance writer.