ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The World Cup begins Thursday, and while the hype surrounding it may seem diminished due to the USA's failure to qualify, soccer enthusiasts will still have an opportunity to watch the most competitive and prestigious soccer tournament in the world.

The 2018 World Cup takes place in Russia from June 14 through July 15 and is made up of 32 national teams — 31 who qualified, and Russia, because hosts automatically qualify. The four teams perceived as the favorites heading into the tournament are perennial powerhouses Brazil, Germany, Spain and France, but upsets are not uncommon in the World Cup — like in 2014 when the defending champion Spain team failed to advance past group play. Whoever you choose to root for, there are some great places in the Rochester area where you can catch all the action.

5) The Exchange — Located in Corn Hill Landing, this downtown sports bar offers great food, and drink, plus outdoor dining options with scenic riverfront views. It's the hometown bar for supporters of Manchester United F.C. and that love of soccer carries over perfectly for the World Cup. They will feature a variety of specials during games, which will all be aired on their 21 TVs during business hours with the possibility of opening even earlier if there is a demand.

4) Brickwood Bar and Grill — A casual, but awesome neighborhood bar on Monroe Avenue that offers standard pub fare including wings, burgers, pizzas, wraps, salads, craft beer and cocktails. Brickwood is perfect for sports fans with 20 TVs surrounding the bar. They will be doing a number of promotions for the World Cup, most notably for all the Iceland games, the tournament's biggest underdog. They'll open at 9 a.m. Saturday for the first Iceland match and promotions include different gift giveaways and Reyka Icelandic Vodka specials. Brickwood is home to Rochester's Aresenal fan club and has a great soccer culture to thrust you into the World Cup world.

3) Old Toad — A traditional British pub serving authentic British food as well as fine craft beers. The Old Toad's English style is perfect for some World Cup games. For the tournament, they have rented a 75-inch TV that will be on display for the entire month of competition. There's also going to be specials and giveaways throughout the four weeks of the World Cup. Note: If you watch games here, call it "football" or "footy" — just not "soccer."

2) Steadfast — Steadfast is new, but already becoming well known for their supreme sandwiches. They opened this spring on East Avenue (at the former space of Matthew's East End Grill). Owner Nick Garofoli and his team provide quality ingredients in both their drinks and food — featuring local craft brews as well as Black Button Distilling liquors and the freshest local foods. Steadfast will be showing all games that start at or after 9 a.m. on a massive 80 inch TV in a private room. Additionally, there are two more TVs in the bar area. Game audio can be heard in the private room for all games, creating what Garofoli calls "a communal feel." Food options start at 10 a.m. and drink specials include $3 Coronas, $5 24 oz Tecates, $6 tequila shots and more!

1) Shamrock Jack's — Right next to Sea Breeze, this place is an Irish pub dream come true. Since 2003 they've been serving up exquisite steak, seafood and more. Like America, the Ireland team also failed to qualify for this year's World Cup, so no worries regarding tension for a possible red, white and blue versus green and gold matchup. Widescreen TVs line the bar, and nearly every corner of this establishment, so you'll never miss a moment. An expansive dining room ensures you'll have a seat no matter how big the crowd gets. What makes Shamrocks special for the World Cup is they will open early for every game throughout the tournament — even the really early games — with the kitchen opening at 11:30 a.m. A full menu and stocked bar will keep you satisfied plus gift giveaways and super soccer specials on food and drink will keep viewers coming back for more. A grand prize is also given away as the World Cup draws to its end!

While it might be a downer that the USA won't be in the tournament this year, there's still plenty of great games to watch. Plus, it's good to get used to it because FIFA announced Tuesday that USA, along with Mexico and Canada, will host the 2026 World Cup as a joint-host North American event!