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World Cup fever hits Salt Lake City as fans gather to watch Team USA

Posted at 3:40 PM, Nov 21, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — Monday afternoon is not the most popular time to hold a party, especially in Utah, but that didn't stop hundreds from gathering in Salt Lake City to celebrate the World Cup debut of Team USA.

Rabid soccer fans from the Beehive State packed the downtown Beer Bar for Monday's USA opener vs. Wales; cheering loudly when the red, white and blue scored to take an early lead.

"It's awesome," said bar owner Duncan Burrell. "It's insane, the energy when we have these events. It's so fun."

Because of the time difference between Utah and the host country of Qatar, nearly all of this year's World Cup games will be played during the morning hours, meaning local fans need a serious case of soccer fever and a good alarm clock to be in place to watch.

Burrell said Beer Bar spent months preparing for the world's biggest sporting event, but admitted he was a little nervous when just a handful of people were waiting when doors opened a few hours before game time.

"Slowly, slowly, people started arriving, and now we're just exhaling and it's great. It's amazing to see all these people," he said.

While hopes for a USA victory were dashed by a game-tying penalty kick from Wales superstar Gareth Bale, fans soaked in the raucous atmosphere from those collectively supporting the American side.

"If you look at this scene, [USA fans] are all here, they're all supporting the U.S., so I'm just really happy everyone showed out," said Elbert, a fan enjoying the game that ended in a 1-1 tie.

Many fans felt a huge relief Monday after finally being able to see Team USA back on soccer's biggest stage, especially having fallen disappointingly short in 2018.

"This is eight years of blood, sweat, and tears coming to a precipice," said Dana Hovland. "We're proud of the team, regardless of win or loss."

Although the World Cup comes just once every four years, soccer has a monster year round following in Utah, with groups like the American Outlaws establishing a large chapter in Salt Lake City. Members were part of the packed house Monday for more than just the game itself.

"We can share in this culture, share in this experience because soccer is family. Soccer is life, right? And you can tell that the aura here is electrifying and we want to keep it going all throughout the whole World Cup," said the group's Jessica Davis.

Beer Bar will host watch parties for as long as Team USA is alive in World Cup play, including Friday's super showdown vs. England.