RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 11: Landon Donovan of US national football team kicks the ball during a training session at Royal Bafokeng stadium on June 11, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Whenever anyone brings up soccer in the U.S., the fans usually say, "It's really growing in popularity," while the rest say, "I don't understand what's so exciting about it."
But with the kickoff of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the true soccer fans in San Diego now have some numbers to back up their argument. As of opening day, 137,953 World Cup tickets had been sold to U.S. fans. That's more than any other nation other than the the home country of South Africa.
As far as those watching here in San Diego, Nielson statistics from the last World Cup, in 2006, show that San Diego had the highest TV ratings of any English-speaking market in the country. Miami was the top for Spanish speaking television.
"I think half of San Diego County was up this morning," said Yan Skwara, who opened the Boca Soccer retail store this week near Old Town.
The top-selling jersey at Boca Soccer so far has been Team Mexico's. While the exact number of people who got up early for Friday morning's 7 a.m. opening game between Mexico and South Africa would be impossible to verify, the streets of Old town certainly had a lot people sporting Mexico jerseys roaming around San Diego Avenue.
"There's nothing like it in the world," said Team Mexico fan Genaro Salazar, "Every four years, I wait for this, and then it only lasts a month."
"It felt like the day before Christmas yesterday," said another fan. "We're just really excited."
Skwara said his store will be open for every World Cup game.
"If a game kicks off at 4 a.m., we're here at 3:45," Skwara said.
Several other businesses in the region -- including the Princess Pub, Shakespeare's British Pub and the Old Town Mexican Cafe -- also opened their doors this morning for fans -- and why wouldn't they? It's big business. The Owner of the Old Town Mexican Cafe said that Friday morning's crowd was about triple this size of a typical morning.
The U.S. plays its first game on Saturday, against England.
Of the 3 million tickets available for this year's World Cup, organizers said that 97 percent have sold.