The World Cup may be far away in Brazil, played by athletes who aren't exactly household names here in Minnesota, but a couple local guys have stepped up with a Web app to help casual fans catch up.
Tap In, created by Curt Baker and Mike Arney from Minneapolis-based branding firm Little, is a slick way to get the basics on each team and match, plus a few hints on what to watch for.
For instance, for today's opening match between Brazil and Croatia, Tap In offers a 70 percent chance of a Brazilian victory and this synopsis:
"With the world watching as they kick off their month-long party, you can expect the host nation to be absolutely rampant. While Croatia boats a creative midfield capable of keeping the ball for long periods, their defense simply won't be able to contain Brazil's talent. Expect fireworks from Neymar and for Croatia to look ahead to its matches against Mexico and Cameroon as opportunities to finish second."
The friends had been looking for a World Cup-themed project to take on. While chatting, Baker said, they realized "there wasn't a great way to get up to speed on each match super quickly and at a level that's accessible for people who will just be tuning in this summer."
"At the same time, it can act as a quick refresh or quick update for the weekly global soccer fan who probably hasn't watched Bosnia play many times," Baker said.
Baker researched and wrote the text. Arney did the technical work. Their goal? Keep it simple. No more than two-clicks to get to whatever info users wanted.
The clean design and bite-sized previews even caught the attention of the creative director at ESPN Digital Media:
Yet what looks simple actually took a lot of time. Both of them figure they've spent well over 100 hours -- mostly evenings and weekends -- work on Tap In since March.
"My wife was nice and patient with me," Arney said.
One of Baker's favorite features? The app adjusts game times based on your time zone, so there's no need to wonder when to tune in. That's a good thing, since he needs to watch the games to write more match previews as the tournament advances.
"I plan on waking up early and going to bed late," Baker said.
But they don't mind.
"The best part is that we love doing it," Arney said. "It's not work if it's something you love."
(Worth noting: They are both big fans of the U.S. team, but Baker predicts the Brazil will come out on top. Arney is thinking Germany will be a force to reckon with.)
If Tap In doesn't give you enough info, there's a digital deluge of sources to choose from.
Mashable suggests a a few other apps for keeping up with the World Cup, including ESPN FC & World Cup, the official app from soccer's governing body FIFA, Onefootball Brasil for live commentary, and one called theScore, which seems pretty self explanatory.
For those interested in talking soccer like a Brazilian (or just learning a new language), there's Rosetta Stone's Traveling Portuguese Futebol Edition for iOS and Android.
The big social media networks are all hoping to score with the World Cup, too.
Twitter has the #WorldCup2014 hashtag page with tweets from teams, celebrities and futebol pundits. It also has links to team accounts and a scoreboard. Nifty fan feature -- if you tweet with a team's official three-letter hashtag, a little national flag will pop up.
Facebook has a Trending World Cup page with related news articles and status updates. There's also a "fan map" showing popularity of different players around the globe.
Then there's Google, which offers everything from a rather random #WorldCup2014 page on Google+ to quick results and schedules when you search World Cup terms. If you want to see what World Cup info others are seeking, there's Google Trends.
And for those of us who can't make it to Brazil for the big event, there are the Google Street View photos of the stadiums.