It's Hard Out Here for a G4
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ESPN FC recently featured an article on the unfair criticism Manaus has received as a host city. While it raises some good points, it misses a crucial one for the traveling fan.

I'm not worried about the heat (average in the 90s) or the soup-like humidity. I'm far more concerned about being mugged in Rio or Recife. I'm planning on embracing the "deadly" local wildlife with a multi-day jungle excursion. (Awesomely, the prices I've been quoted by four different outfits are as cheap as hostel rates in other host cities, and include food and activities.) I'll dutifully get vaccinated for yellow fever and take my malaria pills without too much fuss.

Nope, as a fan, my one and only reservation about Manaus is the airfare. And it's hard to see past. Following the USMNT schedule, a round trip flight to and from Manaus is a cool grand. One-thousand dollars. As of this morning, it costs less to miss the first game and fly from Miami to Manaus than it does to go round trip from the northeast (where the majority of US supporters will be coming from).

Surprisingly, this isn't all far-flung Manaus's fault. England and Honduras both visit the Amazon, and yet can get away with paying under $500 for group stage flights. It helps to visit Manaus first or last - your international flights might be a bit more expensive, but it's still cheaper than having it smack in the middle of the group stage. But the USMNT suffers from the perfect Brazilian travel storm...

The biggest blow to a fan's budget are the northeastern cities. Take, for example, Germany. Germany is sticking mainly to the northeast and yet airfare between Salvador, Fortaleza, and Recife will cost $660. Pretty awful when taking the bus for under half that price might be an option. Colombia covers a similar distance (BH->Brasilia->Cuiaba) at a cost of $255. Or compare Mexico with Belgium - $453 versus $130 for similar mileage.

I imagine there are several factors at play here. Remoteness and lack of infrastructure is one - Fortaleza, Natal, and Recife are a long way from the bulk of Brazil's population in the southern cities. They are not hubs like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. But perhaps demand is just as important. Over the past six months, I kept seeing the same recommendation again and again on blogs and boards that discussed travel for the World Cup: Stay in the northeast! The three cities are close, so it will be cheap! They have beaches, so it will be fun! I worry that too many people took that advice and the airfare reflects that.

Group G has the possibility to be an incredibly fun and competitive group and should be great for even the impartial fan. Sadly, the price tag might keep even the most rabid fans at home.

Airfare by TeamCollapse )

TST Group Round Itineraries
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Because I am a wannabe travel agent with Adobe CS5 OCD, I've made itineraries for each of the possible spots the USMNT could be drawn into for the opening round of the World Cup. And then, I made ones for the spots the US couldn't possibly be drawn into as well (seeded spots such as A1, B1, C1...), just to complete the set.

These aren't meant to be a perfect, professional project - if I got paid for doing this, they would be much nicer and would not feature pictures stolen from Pinterest. Instead, they're a list of things that interested me when reading about what to do and see in the hosts cities and their surrounding areas, arranged to work with the game schedule. If you decide to follow one of them, please double-check everything yourself (for example, a flight may not be available or a museum might be closed on a day I've scheduled it).

Here are a few samples (click to see full-size):

All 32 teams:

A1 | A2 | A3 | A4
B1 | B2 | B3 | B4
C1 | C2 | C3 | C4
D1 | D2 | D3 | D4
E1 | E2 | E3 | E4
F1 | F2 | F3 | F4
G1 | G2 | G3 | G4
H1 | H2 | H3 | H4

Brazilian readers, if you have suggestions or corrections, please leave them below!

FCFS Sales Phase
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The second sales phase, also known as "First Come, First Served", starts tomorrow. For those of you who will be stuck in front of your computers, praying FIFA's website won't crumble under the strain, good luck!

I'll try not to brag about how lucky I am and what a relief it is to have my USA TST-4.

People are beginning to get anxious about the draw on Friday, December 6th. I've seen a lot of questions asked about how the draw works, particularly with regards to the seeded teams. For a better idea, watch the following video series of the 2010 draw (and feel free to skip beyond Valcke's awkward attempts at comedic chemistry with Charlize Theron, who is so not here for that):


First Round Numbers
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The first round of applications for World Cup 2014 tickets is officially closed. Applicants can expect to find out whether or not their bid was successful between now and November 4th.

FIFA has also provided lots of numbers regarding ticket demand, which I find kinda fascinating. Almost six million tickets have been requested in the first sales round total, double the number of tickets actually available. Brazilian residents have submitted the vast majority, accounting for almost 4.5 million of the requests. The top ten nations requesting tickets are as follows:

By NationalityCollapse )

FIFA's website also shows how high demand has been for each individual game. Since only Brazil has been seeded so far (in the A1 spot), fans are bidding on all non-Brazil matches solely by venue. Once you get into the round of sixteen and beyond, every game in every price category is in high demand, but the group round shows some (mostly predictable) patterns.

By Host CityCollapse )

Finally, and of most interest to me, is the information on Team Specific Ticketing. I find what the team specific ticket-demand suggests about fans of different nations to be really interesting.

By TeamCollapse )

Feeling hopeful about your chances? Considering using this info to change your ticket requests in the next round? Let me know below!

Ticket Application Begins
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Application for tickets begins tomorrow! Have you registered yet?

If you haven't, there's still no rush. This ticketing stage is not first-come-first serve - you have until October 10th to apply. However, if you haven't gotten a passport yet, you need to do so immediately. FIFA needs your passport number and credit card information in order to process your application.

If you have questions about the tickets or the process of getting them, please check out this .pdf, released by FIFA. It has a lot of good (and necessary) information.

Ticketing News
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One week from today, FIFA will release info on World Cup 2014 ticketing. Tickets be up for sale starting August 20th.

Protests in Brazil
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It's been way too long since I've updated, but suddenly, there's a lot to post about! First up, everyone even vaguely interested has heard about the protests in Brazil.

What are the protests about?

These videos outline the reasons much better than I can:

Is it safe or ethical to attend World Cup 2014?Collapse )

Meet _____________!
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Meet the (as of now) nameless Brazil 2014 mascot! Watch as this adorable creature creepily stalks a football legend through a darkened forest!

Personally, I'm rooting for the people of Brazil to name him Zuzeco. You?

UPDATE: Welcome, Fuleco!

Heleno and Brazil as World Cup Hosts: A History
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I had the chance to see 'Heleno' (for free!) at MoMA's 'Premiere Brazil!' film festival a few months back.

A review.Collapse )

Anyway, on the subject of Maracanã (see that smooth transition? Oh yeah), I wanted to present a primer on Brazil's history as World Cup hosts. Despite winning the trophy five times, Brazil has only hosted the tournament once before, in 1950. It was the first World Cup to be held in 12 years, thanks to World War II. Europe was still recovering from the war, so it was decided the tournament would be held in South America for the first time since the inaugural World Cup had been held in Uruguay twenty years earlier. Brazil was soccer-crazy then as now. They had a brand new sparkly stadium built in Rio for the occasion, the famous Estádio do Maracanã.

You will magically become 3% smarter and more insufferable if you read this.Collapse )

Your World Cup Budget
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Let's figure out exactly how much money you should realistically plan on saving for the next World Cup. The painful truth? This trip is going to cost you several thousand dollars.

However, there is a massive difference in trying to save $2,000 over two years versus trying to save $8,000 in the same period of time. Here are the things that will account for most of the wild difference in cost: how long you plan to stay, where you plan to stay, whether or not you plan to travel in-country, how many games you'd like to attend, whether or not you'll be splitting costs with friends or family, and what else you plan on doing while you're there. Let's look at the numbers...

click to experience painCollapse )

So now that you're thoroughly depressed at the thought of spending all that money, here's something fun to keep you motivated! Need to keep track of the stupid amount of money you need to accumulate over the next 24 months? Do it with this handy-dandy chart that reminds you of just how insignificant your savings are in the grand scheme of football!

Printable .PDF Here


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