How To Watch World Cup 2010 Online, Easily and For Free

An astronaut abord the Space Shuttle plays with a plush soccer ball

Even in space soccer features the same ridiculous flopping, low scoring, and unsatisfying ties. Here's how to watch it live for free on any computer in the US.

If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably asking the same question we are about this whole FIFA World Cup in South Africa thing that’s kicking off this morning: “Soccer? Really? Everyone’s so excited for soccer?” In a word, yes. While we won’t bother to get into the reasons soccer’s not a big deal in the US (Slate has done a fantastic job already here and here), we will help you join in the excitement, because there’s not much that makes work more exciting than surreptitiously watching sports on your computer all day, even if it’s a sport no one really cares about (we’re looking at you, Olympic curling).

While a quick google will yield you plenty of results for watching the World Cup online, many, if not most of them are sketchy outfits from abroad that require you to pay for and/or download something, neither of which is a good idea for you or your computer. Luckily, we’ve cracked the not-so-secret code that will allow US internet users to easily watch live World Cup matches online to their hearts’ content. Here’s the deal:

The kind folks at ESPN and ABC (both part of the Disney empire) have purchased the US television rights to all the games, and between them will be airing every match live (the vast majority on ESPN and ESPN2). Even better, every game that’s on ESPN or ESPN2 will also be streamed live online, for free, at Of course, that means that a few of the headline weekend matches that air on ABC–like the USA-England this Saturday–won’t be streaming live (you can watch them on ESPN3 after the fact, though). But overall it’s a small price to pay, and since these are weekend matches you’ll probably either have access to a TV or be busy not caring about soccer anyway.

Of course, there’s one teeny, tiny, itsy, bitsy catch with this whole ESPN3 thing: you can only stream live world cup matches to your computer if your ISP has a deal with ESPN. Ridiculous? Absolutely. But it’s also true. The good news is that it seems like most major ISPs except Time-Warner Cable have deals in place. You can check out the full list of companies that have paid a per-subscriber fee for the privilege of accessing ESPN3-excuse us, we mean, “participating providers” on this page.

If your ISP is not on this list, however, don’t worry! All is not lost. First off, if you’re on a military or school computer (somewhere with a .mil or .edu IP address), you’ll be hooked up. If you still can’t get ESPN3, there’s one more surefire solution. All you’ll need is a friend on a participating IP who’s willing to give you 5 minutes of his or her time.

If you have a “myESPN” account (basically a username and password for anything on, you can “link” your account to a participating ISP and then sign into that account to watch ESPN3 programming from anywhere in the US, regardless of ISP. What you’ll want to do is have you friend set up a new account, link it to ESPN3 and then send you the login details. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Send your friend here to create an ESPN account. You’ll want them to fill out the first two boxes with your info (use their zip code instead of yours just to be safe), including whatever name and password you’d like. They should probably uncheck all the other boxes and leave the cell phone info blank so ESPN can’t bug you, and then agree to the terms and fill out the CAPTCHA.
  2. Once your friend has created your account they’ll be automatically signed into it and sent to a confirmation page. From there they should go to any ESPN3 page. (We recommend this one.) Under the ESPN3 banner that runs along the top of the page, have them click on the “Remote Access” button. A red box will pop up and they’ll click another button to activate things (it might take a minute).
  3. Once Remote Access is activated, have your friend sign out of your account (hit the “myESPN” button in the upper right corner and go to “Sign Out”). Then, just go to, sign in with your new account and enjoy the thrill of international soccer.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have to prepare for Saturday’s USA-England match on ABC (no live streaming on that one, sadly). Even though we don’t know much about soccer, we know enough about the way things work to realize that people who drive on the wrong side of the road have no business beating us at anything. U-S-A!

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  1. Freddie Doty says:

    If only more people would hear about this.

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