How to watch World Cup 2010 soccer online

Yes, you can watch World Cup 2010 soccer online. But bring a pair of scissors – red tape abounds.

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    France's midfielder Yoann Gourcuff, in white, fights for the ball with Uruguay's midfielder Alvaro Pereira, in blue, during the first round of the 2010 World Cup. Want to watch the 2010 World Cup online? Be prepared to jump through some hoops.
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The 2010 World Cup kicked off in South Africa this week, and hopes are high that the tournament will be the most-watched television event in history. But if today's Google searches in any indication, plenty of folks would rather watch the World Cup on their laptop than on their flat-screen. So can you watch the World Cup 2010 online? Well, yes, but be prepared to hack through some red tape before you can access a live feed.

In most markets, your best bet for World Cup action is going to be ESPN3. Founded in 2006, the site is a hub for a range of live sporting events, from Australian-rules football to mixed martial arts. The ESPN3 website will be carrying most of the World Cup match-ups, live and in archived form. But before you start leaping for joy – or screaming "Gooooooooooal!" – you should know that ESPN3 is wrapped in more red tape than a Christmas present.

Let's start with the technical requirements, which are reasonably high. If you're using a Mac, you're going to need at least OS X 10.4 (Tiger), 512 MB of RAM, Flash 10, and a processor with a speed of 1.5 Ghz. PC user? You'll also need Flash 10, Windows XP or later, and 128 MB of Video RAM. Both Mac and PC users will have to be working with an Internet connection speed of 450 Kbps.

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At this point, you might be nodding, and donning your favorite soccer jersey. Hold tight. Depending on what part of the country you live in, even if you've got the smartest computer on the market, you still may not be able to watch World Cup 2010 soccer online. Here's the rub: ESPN3 isn't available over all Internet Service Providers (ISP). Comcast, for instance, has signed a deal with ESPN3, and so has Verizon.

Others – including Time Warner – aren't onboard with ESPN3, and if you fall into the "other" category, you're out of luck. Check ESPN3's provider list for details.

And then there is a litany of smaller snags, which might halt your chance to watch World Cup 2010 online. Among the possible pitfalls: You have a wireless card. Too bad! Wireless cards don't work with ESPN3. Or maybe you want to watch at work. Sorry, pal. Odds are that your employer has erected some sort of firewall, which prevents bandwidth-sucking video streams. Got Firebug? Uninstall it, because it messes with ESPN3.

Did we mention blackouts? Yes, blackouts abound. Here's the disclaimer from ESPN3:

Blackouts apply to broadcasts that have been sold regionally or locally per league, conference and local rights holder agreements. Regional and local rights holders are usually broadcast stations or regional sports networks. Blackouts are implemented to protect the primary rights holder, as defined by the professional and college sports leagues or teams in a given market.

Now, the good news: ESPN3 is accessible to anyone with a college, university, or US military IP address. So if you're a student or if you're enlisted, prepare to veg out on World Cup soccer. Can't get onto ESPN3? There is at least one other option: You can watch archived clips of past games on sites such as livesoccertv.com. The quality won't be great, and the clips are short, but at least it will be the World Cup.

Sort of.

Hey, maybe we're missing something. Have you found a site that shows streaming video of the World Cup 2010 online? Send us your suggestions in the comments section – and keep it above board, please. No links to illegal streams.

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