The Best Spots to Watch the FIFA World Cup 2018 in San Francisco
The World Cup comes around every four years and like many cities in the country, San Francisco is full of both die-hard footy fans and general fans of excuses for morning drinking. With both the US and Ireland out of contention this year, many fans in SF -- and many patrons of our dozens of Irish bars -- are going to have to find new teams to root for this time around. (And you can bet the Irish bars will be rallying around whichever team is playing against England that day.)
Below we bring you our picks for the best places in SF to watch all the matches, some of which will be heavily attended by certain national contingents, but many of which will feature a mixed bag of fans. Note: The World Cup is in Russia this time around, which means the live games will be airing mostly between 5am and 11am -- with some bars choosing to replay recorded games in the evening hours.
Best for: Fans who definitely don't like England
While you’ll find fans of Spain, Mexico, and Germany at this Inner Richmond pub, there's definitely one team you can be assured they will not be supporting. “I would say there’ll be a lot of rooting against England,” says a rep at Abbey Tavern, now that Ireland is out of the running. The bar is planning to do a $5 Moscow Mule special, because Russia. And even though they don’t normally serve food, they’ll have some finger food spreads for the biggest game days. And while they don’t plan to open up for the 5am matches, the Abbey will be open for 100% of the 7am, 8am and later games.
Best for: Beer-shot combos and surly regulars
Yes, this is a Yankees bar where ex-New Yorkers gather to watch the NY Giants and New York Jets during football season. But this Tenderloin watering hole likes some soccer too, and given that it’s one of the few bars in town that opens at 6am daily, this will be a reliable spot to catch some of the earlier games live. Just be forewarned this place has a lot of loyal regulars and one surly bartender in particular who generally covers the early morning shift. They offer a daily “BJ” special which is a Bud Light and a shot of Jameson for $4. And if you call ahead you can reserve the round “poker table” booth for you and your friends.
Best for: Cheap beers, good food, and a side of soccer
This handsome new Mission spot with 30 flat-screen TVs has only been open three months (in the former Cease & Desist space) but they plan to cater to the soccer fan base in the ‘hood as much as they can -- though don’t expect them to open much before 11am until the second or third round, depending on demand. Mondays feature $5 cocktails, drafts, and food and $3 bottles and cans. There’s a special World Cup menu and some other drink specials in the works, but those aren’t finalized so check Facebook for upcoming details. Also, there are barrel-aged cocktails ($16), and the food menu is pretty impressive for a sports bar, with a great chicken karaage sando, and a tuna and rice poke bowl.
Best for: Those who don't really like the whole "soccer bar" thing
Barrel Proof’s sister pub in the Inner Sunset has a great setup for sports fans with ample seating and 20 TVs, but because this isn’t really known as a soccer bar, this won’t be a go-to for the early-round, early-morning matches. That said, Blackthorn offers some great barrel-aged cocktails ($12) and boasts a nice whiskey selection, and while they don’t serve food, they welcome you to have food delivered with a book of delivery menus up at the front of the bar. They expect to be busy for the semi-final and final matches, but based on the showing during the 2014 World Cup, they’re sticking to regular hours (i.e. opening at 10am on weekends).
Best for: Irish food, tacos, and a good crowd
Workers in SoMa can duck out of the office to catch matches at The Chieftain, where they’ll be airing most of the 11am games live (and opening at 10:45). In addition, they’ll open up for the 9am Peru vs Denmark game on June 16, and at 8am on June 17 for Germany vs. Mexico. There are daily food and drink specials and plenty of hearty Irish fare here, as well as al pastor tacos every Tuesday for $11.
City Hall PlazaCivic Center
Best for: Family-friendly fun outdoors
As they have for past World Cups in 2010 and 2014, the San Francisco Rec and Parks Department sets up a big screen in the plaza outside City Hall for free family viewing of the biggest, later-round matches. So far they have not posted the schedule of games they’ll be screening, so check the calendar here for updates.
Best for: Getting rowdy with fans of Germany, England, and Ireland
This Irish sports bar in the Lower Haight -- part of the triumvirate that includes Mad Dog in the Fog and Nickie’s -- can always be counted on to follow soccer, and they say they plan to air each and every game no matter the hour. Judging by crowds that gathered here during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, Danny Coyle’s will most definitely be a magnet for fans. Despite this being an Irish bar, there’s a big contingent of England fans (they regularly show English Premier League games here), as well as a contingent of Germany fans as well. And there will be drink specials throughout the rounds, TBD.
El Farolito BarMission
Best for: Burritos and Mexican beers
The Mission is going to be on fire with soccer fever as soon as the World Cup starts, but a nexus of Mexican fandom will be El Farolito’s next-door bar, which always opens at 10am but you can bet they’ll be open at 8am when Mexico plays their first match against Germany on Sunday, June 17, and again at 8am on Saturday, June 23 when they play South Korea. Bottled Mexican beers will run you $5 on average, but the built-in bonus here is being able to order up burritos from the taqueria, via the bartender, and have them brought over to you without taking a break from drinking/soccer watching.
Best for: Grabbing a Guinness with the older crowd
Noe Valley soccer fans won’t have to travel further than The Dubliner to watch most of the matches, though the bar doesn’t plan to open before 11am -- except on Sunday, when they regularly open at 10am It’s also the best place in the neighborhood for a properly poured Guinness. There are daily $5 drink specials here, but don’t expect too much of a young crowd -- this place tends to skew a bit older, and is the local pub for many longtime Noe denizens.
Best for: Brazil fans and good sandwiches
“We had some of the biggest crowds we’ve ever had during the last one,” says a manager at Giordano Bros.’ Mission outpost, which was then just newly open in 2014. Interestingly, this Pittsburgh-centric spot was a magnet for Brazil fans, and that may prove true again, but as a dedicated sports bar, you can bet you’ll find fans of many teams congregating here. Also, they make a mean sandwich, and it comes stuffed with French fries. Drink specials are still TBD, but the bar will be opening early for a lot of the matches, though probably not the earliest ones that kick off before 8am Definitely expect this place to be packed with fans for the later rounds and final matches.
Best for: Grabbing an Irish breakfast
Down in the Financial District you can catch all the 11am and later matches at The Irish Bank, with the exact schedule of games still to be posted on their website. The place is inviting and cozy, with a full food menu including a proper Irish breakfast, and some solid fish and chips.
Curiously, this place has been a draw for fans of Uruguay and Brazil in past years, so look for those contingents to gather for those countries’ matches. The Irish Bank also will consider opening early for the later round matches, depending on interest.
Best for: Morning beers and early games
This locals-only spot in the Marina is a go-to for all sports seasons, and World Cup season is no exception. With 11 flat screens and a spacious U-shaped bar, as well as draft cocktails, food, and 24 beers on tap, Final Final will have your soccer-watching needs met. The bar plans to open for all of the 7am and 8am games, and there’s always free popcorn available. But the fans here tend to skew younger, i.e. mid 20s.
Best for: Food and fun in an LGBTQ-friendly space
LGBTQ sports fans already know to head to Hi Tops to watch big games in a friendly space. And while the bar doesn’t plan to open earlier than usual (11:30am) for any of the games, they will be showing as many rebroadcasts and live games as possible. The bar boasts 20 HDTVs and ample seating, especially for the die-hard fans who’ll be showing up early. It’s a gay bar but everyone is welcome, and the place has an acclaimed bar food menu that includes brunch items like a breakfast burrito, and an excellent fried chicken sandwich.
Best for: Beer and wings for breakfast
“Opening at 4am for soccer matches is nothing new for us,” says a manager at The Kezar Pub in the Upper Haight. “We can start serving drinks at 7am.” Also, there’s a full menu of bar food, and who doesn’t love Buffalo wings for breakfast? The passionate soccer fans here don’t all necessarily root for the same teams, but this will be a prime spot to head for games with the earliest start times like France vs Australia on Saturday, June 16, and Colombia vs Japan on Tuesday, June 19. Check the Facebook page for updates on TBA beer and drink specials.
Best for: Taking a break from the games in the beer garden
This dedicated soccer-centric bar in the Lower Haight will, as they always have, open for each and every game no matter the hour. The place boasts 16 TVs and some good Buffalo wings, as well as a semi-secret beer garden out back if you need some air. Serious fans of English teams congregate here on the regular, so you can guess that England’s matches will be well attended here. But Barcelona fans also know this place, as do soccer fans generally, so expect a mixed back and lots of screaming “Goooool!”
Best for: A delicious caipirinha and Brazilian food
Brazil fans are going to be scattered throughout the city -- and there is a pretty large contingent of Brazilians residing in SF, in case you weren’t aware. But you can bet, as during previous World Cups, there will be some enthusiastic soccer fans gathering at this little Brazilian spot on Franklin off of Market. In addition to some authentic Brazilian food, the bar here has probably the biggest collection of cachacas in the city, and the caipirinhas can’t be beat.
Best for: Two-for-one margs and burgers
Opening times may vary at this 24th Street Irish pub, but likely the Napper Tandy will be open by 8am for most of the game days -- and this was a popular spot for World Cup viewing back in 2014 (for rooting against England, naturally). Wednesdays feature $4 beers, and Thursdays offer two-for-one margaritas, and every day there’s a food menu featuring some great tater tot nachos, corned beef quesadillas, and solid burgers -- also don’t miss the pork belly Benedict on the weekends.
Best for: Unbeatable drink specials
For gay soccer fans who A) smoke cigarettes, or B) want to catch the earliest games live, The Mix will be the place to go in the Castro. This all-inclusive bar with a very diverse crowd has multiple screens both at the inside bar and on the outside smoking patio, and they open at 7am on weekdays and 6am on the weekends, with or without a World Cup going on. They plan to show as many of the matches as possible, and for the games that kick off at later in the morning, you can take advantage of happy hour starting at noon every day. Drink specials include $2 domestic drafts on Mondays, $3 for any beer on Wednesdays as well s $5.50 Hangar 1 cocktails, and $2.50 Tecates and $5 Tito’s cocktails all day Thursday.
Best for: Getting a proper Guinness
This is a bar where they’ll be rooting for England, but as a bartender tells Thrillist, “We get people of all nationalities in here. For the last World Cup we had a lot of Portuguese and Spanish fans for some reason.” Specific drink specials for the World Cup are still TBD, but they do boast that they “pour one of the best Guinness' in San Francisco,” always with a proper head, and in a 20-ounce glass.
Best for: Finding a seat and watching Germany play
For an authentic German beer hall experience, wherein Germany fans can watch their team score, look no further than Schroeder’s down in the Financial District. With a cavernous space and plenty of seating, you likely won’t feel too hemmed in here, but be warned that since this isn’t typically a sports bar, there are only a couple of TV screens up front. The bar plans to show every match that Germany is playing, even the early ones -- and there will be breakfast served for all the morning matches. Drink specials are TBD.
Best for: Finding a TV to play whatever game you're looking for
Divisadero's San Francisco Athletic Club first opened its doors at the opening of the 2014 World Cup, and since then they’ve become one of the top spots in town for watching Giants, Warriors, and 49ers games, and everything else you can think of including plenty of soccer. This place has 28 flat screens including two 80-inchers, and they’ll likely all be tuned to the World Cup once it starts. They’ll be opening for most or all of the games that kick off at 5am, and this is a place that attracts a lot of different fan bases -- but there’s a big Colombian contingent that comes here, so this place could be the prime spot to catch Colombia’s matches against Japan (June 19 at 5am), Poland (June 24 at 11am) and Senegal (June 28 at 7am). They also serve breakfast on weekends, and bar bites always.
Best for: The casual watcher who enjoys a great burger
This bustling SoMa dive is a go-to spot for Giants watching, but they’ll be airing as many World Cup games post-11am as they can, for soccer fans in the ‘hood. They won’t, however, be opening any earlier than that. Drinks are pretty cheap here in general, especially for SoMa, and the place has an attached food window called The Box that makes an excellent burger, which you can bring into the bar to eat.
Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.