As much as I miss that camaraderie — and the beer — there's no doubt that these new viewing options will allow me to watch more games than before. It's incredibly convenient. Aside from a few nitpicks, the interfaces are simple and clean.
WatchESPN offers replays of every match, which is great for those who can avoid finding out scores as they happen. The replay interface is a bit clunky, though. When you click to start watching a 90-minute game, you get a feed that is more than four hours long. Much of it is a static screen saying the game is coming. The actual broadcast starts near the middle, and there might be a half-hour or more of hype before the actual game play. As you move a slider to forward to the actual game, you might accidentally see the score if you move it too far.
There are some other interesting features, though they aren't particularly useful.
A "highlight reel" of the 90-minute Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina game is longer than the game itself. It has no play-by-play announcement, and it starts with aerial shots of the Argentina bus arriving at the stadium. Not exactly a highlight.
Meanwhile, the "tactical cam" is a video feed from high in the stadium. The players look like brightly colored insects, and the ball is a pin-prick, but soccer coaches can presumably gather something from the shifting patterns of play.
Full-game replays aren't available on Univision Deportes, but its interface makes seeing what happened, or re-living the big moments, much easier and more satisfying. You get a meaty highlight video that lasts about four minutes and includes play-by-play announcements. You also get short clips of important plays, from many angles.
I found myself sharing great moments of the games with my kids with Univision rather than WatchESPN, even though they don't speak Spanish.
Now, just because there are great mobile apps for watching the games, it does not mean bars should be shunned completely. In fact. I plan to duck out early to meet friends for a few early evening games. Shhhh!
Jonathan Fahey can be reached at http://twitter.com/JonathanFahey