D.C.

Thousands skip work to watch U.S.-Germany World Cup match at Dupont Circle

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WASHINGTON (WJLA/AP) -- Thousands of eager Americans set work aside Thursday to watch the U.S. men's soccer team play Germany in a key World Cup match.

VOA of D.C. indulges World Cup Fever

Fans cheer for Crofton native Kyle Beckerman

Future soccer stars in Germantown

Fans flocked to an official watch party in Washington's Dupont Circle, where the enthusiastic crowd chanted loudly "USA! USA!" Many more Washingtonians took part in boss-approved, morale-boosting breaks at the office.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation hosted a party for its staff of about 100 with a TV and food.

Matt Rogers of the Washington-based Urban Institute, which held a party for its 400 employees, said the World Cup is a great way to build office relationships.

"We don't have many moments where you can find a common interest among a big chunk of that population. Sports, and in particular a World Cup-type event with a national team - and tense and dramatic sporting moments - really bring people together," Rogers said.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann even posted an online note for people to give to their bosses. It asked managers to excuse staff to watch the game for the good of the nation.

"By the way, you should act like a good leader and take the day off as well. Go USA!" he wrote.

At the Department of Transportation in Washington, officials were concerned that so many employees would watch the match online from their desks that it would slow down the agency's computer network.

"We are going to monitor bandwidth utilization throughout the day and we'll plan to block the streaming sites should we encounter any network issues," Todd Simpson, the department's associate chief information officer, warned in an email to workers.

John Challenger, the CEO of executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., estimated Thursday's match could cost U.S. companies $390 million in lost wages.

But Challenger added that in an era of increasingly scattered workplaces, an investment in something that brings staffers together might not be such a bad idea.

"It's what I would call a good buy for companies," Challenger said. "It's just like if you invite your team out to have drinks after work. You're spending it on enhanced morale...and trust among your people."

We even found bosses in the mass of bodies at Dupont Circle, and while it’s too early to estimate loss productivity, during the 2010 World Cup the U.S. economy reportedly lost $121 million.

So Pablo Quintana of VOA Assocates in D.C. didn’t want for new estimates. Following the draw with Portugal, he panicked about his employees and decided to indulge their World Cup Fever – and every employee showed up for work on Thursday.

"We ordered in sweets, we ordered in some pizza, and then we went and got beer. Anytime you do something like this, for you staff, productivity goes up," he said.

Now that Team USA still has a chance, VOA already has a plan:

"This office will absolutely, 100-percent shut down to watch that match, guaranteed."

And while future stars learn the basics at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, their parents and coaches are abuzz about the World Cup.

"The kids, maybe they are a little too young to understand what's going on, but telling them that we advanced -- that just gives them joy knowing that their country is good enough to advance to the next round," said coach Felipe Vera.

Soccer dad Alex Calvo donned a USA jersey, proud of his team. He knows these little kickers may not realize it now, but America’s success in this World Cup may broaden this sports appeal stateside:

"Soccer is the only sport that actually links the whole world together. You can go anywhere in the world right now and they are probably sitting on a couch watching the soccer matches."

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