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Soccer Popularity Goes Up As World Cup Fever Hits Hoosiers

While Hoosiers may be known for their love of basketball, Indiana is no stranger to soccer.

A new professional team in Indianapolis, Indy Eleven, sold out all five games in its inaugural season.

“I think just finishing our first season here with Indy Eleven people are already kind of in a soccer mood,” Nathan Sprenkel, Indy Eleven’s goalkeeper, says. “So this is kind of a carryover from that. We just had our last home game a couple weekends ago. Now the World Cup kind of being between our two seasons helps to continue the support for soccer and keep the mood alive. Keep the fans excited, give them something to cheer for while they wait for Indy Eleven to kick back off.”

And the IU Men’s Soccer team have been NCAA National soccer champs a record nine times.

Coach Yeagley credits the popularity of the sport in part to a camp started by his father.

“You think back to when my family first started the camp and he was first a coach in the 1970s, you couldn’t buy a soccer ball in town, you’d have to go to Indianapolis,” Yeagley says.

More than 40 years later, IU’s Bloomington campus is home to one of the world’s most prestigious soccer camps.

“It’s a tremendous growth and you see that every step of the way,” Yeagley says. “College game, our professional team is doing really well, major league soccer, our national team has benefitted and obviously we’re seeing that at the World Cup level  which is the pinnacle of our sport.”

The camp, which usually sells out, plays host to more than 300 youth soccer players and coaches from around the country.

This year has the added benefit of coinciding with the World Cup, and junior athletes are watching their heroes intently.

“When I play sometimes I act like my favorite players like Ronaldo like when you play World Cup with your friends I’ll pick Portugal or USA and I’ll pick a player and it’s fun,” Nicholas Graziano, IU soccer camper, says.

After a week of learning and competing with each other, the campers will watch the USA play Germany together this Sunday.

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