Watching the early matches in the 2018 FIFA World Cup makes you realize that running around for ninety minutes straight sure will keep a body looking fit and trim.  Man, those guys are in shape!  Bulging calf muscles aside, we've got three reasons why this tournament will make us all bigger soccer fans.

A Gallup poll that came out earlier this year said 7% of Americans named soccer as their favorite sport to watch.  Football was number one, but it did drop a couple of percentage points from 39 down to 37 percent.  Soccer posted the biggest increase in popularity, up from 4% the year before. Basketball and baseball are still more popular than soccer in the US, but soccer is in fourth place ahead of hockey and golf.  Forbes Magazine predicts soccer will pass baseball the next time the popularity poll is taken.

Texas has two cities in the top 20 on Wallethub's list of the Best Soccer Cities in America.  Houston came in at #11, and Dallas was #16.  Nacogdoches ranked the highest of our East Texas cities at #157.  Considering there are hundreds of soccer cities and towns in the US, that's not too shabby.  Rankings were based on ticket affordability, stadium accessibility, and championship wins.

I watched several World Cup matches over the weekend, and although I'll admit I don't follow soccer all that much when the World Cup rolls around it totally sucks me in. It's the passion and suspense that makes World Cup soccer so intriguing.

3 Reasons Why the World Cup Will Make You a Bigger Soccer Fan

1.  The fans.  They are so passionate!  The camera shots of the faces in the crowd when there's a goal show over-the-top joy as if they just welcomed a brand new baby in the delivery room.  The fans are into every minute of the match, and they're pretty much singing the whole time.  They are happy fans, and it's infectious.  They are the proof that soccer really is the most popular sport across the globe.

2.  No Vuvuzelas.  The vuvuzela noisemakers are out after people decided they were annoying in South Africa in 2010, so you won't hear those in this year's World Cup in Russia.  The Huffington Post says the Russians have a new way for the fans to make noise, and that's with lozhkahs.    Lozhkahs are wooden spoons that fans can click together to create a steady stream of noise, and they're quieter than the vuvuzela horns.  Allegedly.  But again, the passion of the fans is infectious.  They'll do anything to connect with the match and add to the atmosphere, and it makes the matches more exciting.

3.  Ties are a good thing.  Football and basketball head to overtime when there's a tie at the end and baseball goes to extra innings, but soccer matches are content with tie scores.  Probably because it's so darned hard to get a goal!  If soccer teams played to break the tie there's no telling how long they'd have to play on. It could be another 90 minutes.  A tie is not a loss, and it can end up working to a team's advantage in pool play.  Appreciate soccer now, and soon enough we'll be back to griping about coin flips, possession, and other overtime rules in football.  The no-overtime thing is refreshing.

The FIFA World Cup runs through mid-July, and the matches are going to be on at sports bars, gyms, offices, and oil change places until then.  Click HERE for the Group Phase and Knockout Phase schedules, and whip out the lozhkahs when you're really ready to get into it.  This is fun.