By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s the biggest sporting event in the world, and it starts in just eight days.

Ron Matz reports Baltimore area soccer fans are counting down to the start of the World Cup.

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When Spain’s national soccer team arrived at BWI, players were greeted like rock stars.

World Cup fever is here. Just ask Irish Dave Gallagher.

“It’s a lot of excitement. We wait every four years for this. It’s real excitement,” said Gallagher, bartender at Slainte. “During the World Cup, especially for the U.S. games and England’s games, fans show up two hours before the games. They really get into it and enjoy the game itself.”

Slainte in Fells Point is the official U.S. Soccer bar in Baltimore.  It’s where soccer is a religion.

“The World Cup for us is like Christmas in July.  It’s a tremendous amount of exposure.  It’s a great time.  It’s the one time we get to showcase what we’re all about here at Slainte.  It’s the place where soccer is a religion and we can show everybody what we do,” said Samantha Balesteri, manager of Slainte in Fells Point.

In 2009, the match between AC Milan and Chelsea was a sellout.  The World Cup excitement is building.

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“We’re the official U.S. Soccer bar here in Baltimore.  We’re the home of the Baltimore chapter of the American Outlaws Soccer Club,” said Balesteri.  “The restaurant is excited about the World Cup.  We can’t wait for it.”

Four years ago, Baltimore soccer fans packed Slainte, and with 64 matches on TV this time, they’ll do it again starting June 12.

“For the World Cup, it’s crazy.  We’ve got three levels so we can accommodate everybody.  Every game, we have a diversity of fans…just about every country.  It’s a good time,” said Gallagher.

Spain is the defending champion, and fans are feeling the excitement–from Brazil to Baltimore.

Spain will play El Salvador Saturday in a warm-up match at FedEx Field in Landover.

Four years ago, it’s estimated that one billion people around the world watched at least part of the World Cup final.

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