INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – It’s a tournament like no other. Every four years, the World Cup soccer tournament draws the attention of a world-wide audience. The World Cup is bigger than the Super Bowl and more popular than a presidential election.
This year, it’s found growing popularity in a state known for it’s devotion to basketball and American football.
Three hours before the first world cup soccer match, fans Jason Hepley and Rusty Redenbacher have already claimed their seats at the Chatam Tap on Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis.
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“I actually kind of made fun of people a couple of years ago, four years ago. I was like aw, it’s too much. And then I stopped talking and I got into it. It’s really interesting. It’s enthralling man,” Redenbacher said.
Enthralling in a city where until recently, professional soccer was on the back burner. That’s changed now though.
The Indy Eleven professional team has been able to sell more than 10,000 seats for every home game in its inaugural season even though they haven’t won a game yet.
“I think over the last 20 years, more and more kids have been growing up playing and that transitions. They grow up and they go on to play high school, college,” Hepley said.
They also pass on the passion they developed for the sport.
“As far as the recreational side, it’s very easy for anyone to play,” said George Perry, with the Indiana Soccer Association.
Perry says the number of Hoosiers playing is skyrocketing.
“On the youth side, this spring, we registered just under 1,100 teams. From 8-year-old players to 18-year-old, some of them 19-year-old players,” said Perry.
Perry said that doesn’t include another 3,500 who play the sport for fun. Which helps explain why Hoosiers are expected to pack viewing parties all over the city.
Daniel Jones, owner of Chatam Tap, expects to be busy until the cup competition is over.
“As big as it was in 2010 for us, it’s twice as big, if not more, for 2014,” he said.
Hoosiers are not alone in their growing enjoyment of soccer. Forbes took a look at the sport’s popularity in America and found average attendance at major league matches has gone up by more than 15 percent since 2000.
Viewing parties are being held throughout the Indianapolis area. Click here for a link to more information on the watch parties, times, and locations.
The USA plays its first game on Monday at 6 p.m.