Whether you call it futbol, or soccer, FIFA says 18-million people are playing, that's just here in the United States. Worldwide, more than 250-million.
In each Olympic soccer match 11 players from each team will play two 45 minute halves, and feature some of world's best young players. Sadly the U.S. men's team didn't qualify for London, so they'll have to set their sights on qualifying in 2016 for Rio de Janeiro. The women, however, are looking for their third straight gold medal.
The pressure of performing at this level is intense. Former Clovis High mid-fielder Chad McCarty knows how it feels to play on such a huge stage. He was a member of the U.S. men's team that competed in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney.
"When you're competing for your country in the Olympics or the World Cup, every single play matters. You have limited opportunities to capitalize on, or unfortunately you can make a mistake."
Chad returned to his roots here in the valley and started the McCarty Soccer Academy. Here he shares the experience of playing in the Olympics and cultivates the passion and skills of valley soccer players. Former Clovis North forward Villyan Bijev has his eyes set on the world stage too.
"My first goal is to qualify for the U-20 World Cup coming up in February. Then after that it'll be to play on the Olympic team, and also qualify for the Olympics."
Group play opens July 25th when each country will play a series of three matches against the other teams in their group. Each group's winner and runner-up will move on to the quarter-finals. Winners of the quarter and semi-final rounds will move on to play for the gold medal. Losers in the semi-final round will play for the bronze.
Many fans are anxiously awaiting the return of team Great Britain, which hasn't competed in the Olympics since 1960. Team Great Britain with players from England and Wales will be heavy favorites in men's Olympic soccer, along with Spain, Brazil and Mexico.
The U.S. women's team is the odds on favorites, after winning gold at Beijing in 2008 & Athens in 2004. They've medaled in every Olympics since 1996. Other teams to watch in the women's tournament are Brazil, with their gifted player Marta, host nation Great Britain, Japan and Canada.
"I definitely think it's probably the biggest platform that an athlete could want to compete on, and it seems to just keep getting bigger. I can't wait to see what happens in London."
Olympic Soccer matches will start on July 25th, concluding with the women's medal rounds on August 9th, and the men's medal rounds on August 10th and 11th. You can watch all of the action on NBC's Olympic website by clicking here.
For more information on the McCarty Soccer Academy click on "News Links" above.