If you have tickets already, congratulations! This ranks right up there with a Golden Ticket for a tour of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Even so, keep the following in mind:
-Allow for extra travel time (and then some ... and then some more) to get to the game. ID checks, searches, and long lines can make the minutes add up fast, and no one wants to worry about missing that whistle. And don't forget: The scene outside the stadium can be as much fun as what's going on inside. You won't be bored.
-Do yourself and those waiting in line behind you a favor and don't try to bring anything into the stadium that will be confiscated. Bottles, cans, alcohol - all are game-day no-nos.
-Use public transportation. Not only is Germany's public transport excellent - and many lines have been upgraded in anticipation of the tournament - but travel to the stadium on game day is free with your ticket. Again, be ready for crowds and check your tickets for specific details. If driving, plan your route ahead of time and look for alternate routes as well.
-Skip that last cup of coffee … or several pints of beer. No time-outs is one of many reasons soccer is so enjoyable to watch in person and all the more reason to watch with an empty bladder. You've made it this far; do you really want to miss a crucial call because nature's call can no longer be ignored? Save your imbibing for after the game. Do the math: If you paid 600 euros for a ticket to the 90-minute final, a 15-minute trip to the bathroom will cost you about 100 euros. And, of course, the cost of missing a goal cannot be calculated.
If you have not yet scored tickets to the greatest sporting show on earth, fear not. Making the most of the world's biggest sporting event doesn't require being at the stadium.
-Want to watch Italy's Azzuri with a predominantly Italian crowd? Looking to enjoy a proper pint while Becks lights up the pitch for England? With substantial immigrant populations throughout Germany, you'll have many options for watching with the international crowd of your liking.
-"If you want to soak up the atmosphere, there's probably more atmosphere outside the stadium than inside," says U.S. National Team defender Steve Cherundolo, who is in his eighth season with Germany's Hannover 96. He's right: Cities are offering numerous outdoor wide-screen viewing opportunities, along with beer gardens. "I would actually rather watch the game there, but hopefully I'll be playing," Cherundolo laughs.
Check the tourism sites of the individual host cities to find out what outdoor screens and activities will be provided. Or just follow the crowds.
-Student districts are often some of the liveliest and least expensive areas in which to watch games. Cologne resident Werner Schmitz of Deutsche Welle Radio agrees: "Everything on Zuelpicher Strasse (the student quarter) comes recommended," he says, "although the places may be packed hours before the referee blows the whistle."
-Stay at home - or, rather, at the hotel. Many hotels often set up screens in their lobbies and conference rooms, in addition to viewing opportunities in their restaurants and bars. This can also cut down on travel and chaos for those who want a more mellow viewing experience.
TIME OUT(What to do between games)
Between matches, don't forget to get away from the TV or stadium and emerge from the dark, smoky bars to take a look around the rest of Germany. "I would recommend people really soak up the culture," says U.S. National Team defender Gregg Berhalter, who plays professionally with Germany's Energie Cottbus, "and there's no better time than summer to appreciate it."
-Though the host cities themselves offer plenty to do, a trip away from the center of things can be refreshing. Staying in Munich? Don't forget nearby Augsburg. Two of Berhalter's favorites are Weimar and Dresden. "It's such a beautiful city," Berhalter says of Dresden, which celebrates its 800th anniversary this year. Germany's natural attractions - the canals of Spreewald or the Thuringian forest - provide ample opportunities for hikes and relaxing drives. A longtime favorite route is Germany's "Romantic Road," which runs from Wurtzburg (near host city Frankfurt) south past Munich.
-Brush up on your German while listening to the bar-stool analysts watching the games. The Goethe-Institut offers language courses in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Munich, revolving around the World Cup tournament.
-Eat, drink, and be (responsibly) merry. Says Schmitz: "The main advice is be peaceful, have a drink or 12, but don't smash things and/or people; don't spoil it for yourself and for everybody else." Cherundolo recommends adopting the slower-paced European frame of mind, where "people take more time to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and relax and enjoy each other's company." Paz also values the local fare: "Germany has the best and most diverse breads in the world," he enthuses. "I love their potatoes, and I love their beers. But I'm not going to check my cholesterol level until July 15!"