All-HD World Cup Kicks Off June 9

Finally, after more than a year of increasing publicity and HD-centric marketing to boost sales of digital sets (with mixed results, geographically), the 2006 World Cup featuring 32 teams and 64 matches over a period of one month gets underway this Friday, June 9.

The quadrennial global competition comes amid some obvious HD sales spurts in Europe (as well as a long waiting list for DBS HD set-top boxes in the U.K. and other locales that will not be satisfied in time). In the U.S., where the tourney is not quite as popular as in other parts of the world (although that seems to be changing rapidly), broadcaster ABC or its cable channel, ESPN2HD, will carry all games live in 720p.

The first two games on June 9 in Stage 1 competition (Group A) include Germany vs. Costa Rica in Munich at 11:55 a.m., followed by Poland vs. Ecuador at 2:55 p.m. in Gelsenkirchen. The first Team USA match is Monday, June 12 vs. the Czech Republic at 11:55 a.m. in Gelsenkirchen (all times EDT).

These three match-ups will be aired on ESPN2HD. In the U.S., virtually all ESPN Zone cafes (there are apparently 10, at last count), along with many other sports bars, have replaced existing 16:9 SD and ED flatscreens with HD monitors for the Cup, according to ABC Sports and published reports.

Germany will host the entire Cup at a dozen stadium venues, which will be equipped with HD monitors. The Cup's International Broadcast Center is in Munich. ESPN Star Sports will cover the Cup (some in HD) for India, the world's second most populous nation, among other regions of the globe.