This past Tuesday, Mass Ave turned into a sea of sweaty, cheering bodies as people flocked downtown to watch the US take on Belgium in the World Cup. With every save, penalty kick, and slide tackle the roar of the crowd was loud enough to be heard for miles. It was an infectious feeling you couldn’t help but be a part of.
This is what the World Cup is all about. It’s a month-long party that goes down once every four years, that people across the world unite and talk about. It’s a party that the US has historically taken limited part in. We have been the weird person who comes in, stands by the plant in the corner, and slowly jives to the music. But that has been significantly changing over the years, with our most impressive fan base turning out for 2014 on both a national and local level.
So what did Indy do right this time around? How did we make this the most successful World Cup to date? First and foremost, the city took a more organized approach to following the tournament. More viewing parties in local restaurants and bars, like Chatham Tap or Union Jack Pub, were held and promoted around the city. And social media made it easier than ever to find out which restaurants were opening early for matches or which ones were having food or drink specials on game days.
Indy Eleven in particular did a great job building hype and excitement. The team hosted promoted viewing parties and shared photos of the events on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
As the USMNT moved on and excitement for the team grew, Indy created a great sense of unity among the city, and tapped in to the excitement shared by the nation as a whole. There was an “us against the world,” underdog mentality that made it hard not to get involved in the tournament. Word went out a day before the Belgium game that Indy was closing off two blocks of Mass Ave to hold a viewing party. And word spread fast. Just 12 hours after the plans were leaked to the public, 6,500 people showed up on the Ave. to yell and cheer with every kick and every shot blocked by Tim Howard.
In the swell of that crowd, it felt like every one in the state had finally shown up on the soccer field. While not every Hoosier was a soccer fan, they still wanted to be in the environment that was created with viewing parties, social media, and local news coverage. People knew that if they wanted a fun time, they should be downtown or in their local pub with their neighbors on game day.
Soccer may not be the most thrilling sport to watch for some people, but who wouldn’t want to throw back a few beers and cheer their country onto victory with their friends and perfect strangers? The United States may not have won every game, but we never lost a party.
Still have the soccer fever? Come out and support your local Indy Eleven team at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium as they kick off against the Carolina RailHawks on Saturday, July 12th.