World Cup Fever

Catch it all throughout Germany starting next week, whether or not you have tickets to the matches.
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More than 60,000 fans will pack the Olympiastadion in

Berlin on June 7. Nearly 5,000 dancers will boogie to Oscar and Emmy winner Doug Jack's choreographed routine; Il Divo will sing the "A Time of Our Lives" theme song, with some help from R&B singer Toni Braxton.

Why such an Olympic-scale ceremony? It's the opening match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup -- the most-watched sporting event on the planet. According to Initiative, a London company that buys media space for advertisers, the Cup's 64 matches will attract a cumulative live TV audience of more than five billion.

"People around the world will soon have World Cup fever," says Amy Shapiro at Concierge.com, a travel site.

As many Americans tune in at home (via

ABC

,

ESPN

or Univision) or crowd into local pubs to catch their favorite team's match, hordes will actually head to Germany, which is hosting the tournament 32 years after it was last contested there.

Germany beat out bids from South Africa (which will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup), England, Brazil and Morocco for the honor.

Brazil is the current holder of the trophy, as well as the most successful World Cup team, having won the tournament five times. Germany and Italy follow with three titles each. Brazil is, again, the favorite this time around.

The 32-team World Cup (the official Web site offers translations in nine languages) begins on June 9 in Munich, will be played in 12 German cities and closes with the final in Berlin on July 9.

Held every four years, the World Cup is by far the most important event to soccer-playing nations around the globe.

No wonder

Adidas

,

Puma

and

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

have already melded their brand identity into jerseys, shorts and socks for the fields of Germany.

"The World Cup this year has been tremendous for us," says Robert Tuchman, president of TSE Sports and Entertainment, a hospitality marketing firm. "Being in this business for 10 years, I was truly blown away by the response to this event."

Wilkommen to Berlin

The Global Village at Berlin's Kulturbrauerei complex couldn't have a more appropriate motto: A time to make friends. And it will be a diverse crowd -- organizers say fans from over 70 countries have booked more than 1 million overnight hotel stays in Germany for the event.

The party atmosphere will spread all over Berlin, and a giant clock at the Brandenburg Gate is ticking down to the kickoff.

The Global Village will be one of the largest public viewing areas in the city.

An expected 10,000 spectators will follow the matches there on two large open-air screens, as well as 10 additional screens in nearby concert halls, clubs and restaurants.

Avid fans will likely be online when not watching a match.

A new

Web site created by the British embassy in Germany will assist the estimated 100,000 English fans expected to travel to Germany for the World Cup festivities.

England is expected to have more fans at the actual games in the stadiums-- around 50,000 -- than any other competing country, except Germany.

The informative site even features the German version of phrases such as "He puked his guts up," "He was sick as a parrot" and "Wembley goal," which refers to the controversial goal scored in overtime by England against Germany in the 1966 World Cup final.

Meanwhile, die-hard American fans have high expectations for their team.

"In many cases, pubs in the U.S. will be standing-room only," says Becky Peterson at Setanta Sports, a European-based TV network that broadcasts international football.

The U.S. Men's National Team started World Cup preparations on Jan. 4 with a six-week training camp at the National Training Center in Carson, Ca., and a series of test matches. They've been drawn into Group E with Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic, which many consider to be one of the toughest groups in the tournament.

The U.S. will open by playing against the Czech Republic on June 12 in Gelsenkirchen, and will follow that game with matches against three-time World Cup champion Italy on June 17 in Kaiserslautern and against Ghana on June 22 in Nuremberg. The top two finishers in each group progress to the next round.

When they aren't playing, the American lads will be in Hamburg for the duration of the tournament. The Park Hyatt Hotel downtown will be their camp, should you want to make sure they're not partying too hard.

And while the world watches, it is clear this sporting event is very big business for Germany itself.

After the final game is played in Berlin on July 9, visitors will have spent over $12.8 billion in the land of beer and sausage, according to German government figures.

In all, say experts, hosting the World Cup will mean a growth of 0.5% in Germany's gross domestic product.

Still Looking to Score?

Yes, you can get tickets!

It is still possible to get tickets online, as there are some that are being returned. Check on the

official Web site or auction sites such as eBay.

If you go, there will be fan festivals in each of the 12 host cities in official places, as well as unofficial locations, such as churches and other public spaces, at which the games will be shown.

If you can't score a ticket to the matches but are still in the mood for a German excursion, each host city and many other towns in Germany have organized free public viewing sites.

In Berlin, the fan zone will be in the immediate vicinity of the Reichstag, with spillover into the Strasse des 17. Juni.

Public viewing sites for the other 11 FIFA World Cup host cities have also been announced: Dortmund -- Friedensplatz; Frankfurt -- banks of the Main; Gelsenkirchen -- Gluckauf arena; Hamburg -- Heiligengeistfeld; Hannover -- Waterlooplatz; Kaiserslautern -- Stiftsplatz; Cologne -- Heumarkt and Roncalliplatz; Leipzig -- Augustusplatz; Munich -- Olympiapark; Stuttgart -- Schlossplatz; and Nuremberg -- Volksfestplatz.

In many cities, fans can go to evangelical churches and watch the matches free. For more information on these areas, visit

fanguide2006.org.

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This story was corrected after it was published. Please see

Corrections and Clarifications.

As originally published, Tracy McNamara is a Special Features Editor at Woman's World magazine. She previously was an editor at Time Inc.'s Hallmark Magazine. Her articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal's Real Estate Journal, Time Out New York Eating & Drinking Guide, and Zink Magazine. She graduated with honors from Wesleyan University and received her master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism.