Close to 42,000 fans witnessed the biggest soccer match in Indianapolis history on Thursday night, as European rivals Chelsea and Inter Milan met in an exhibition match at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The official attendance was 41,983 in the 5-year-old football stadium, which was configured to seat about 61,000 for the match. The game, a quarterfinal match in the barnstorming Guinness International Champions Cup, was expected to draw more than 150 credentialed members of the media from five countries.
The first soccer game ever held at Lucas Oil also the first time a natural grass surface was laid inside the stadium, thanks to more than 100,000-square feet of Kentucky Bluegrass that was trucked in last weekend.
Indianapolis will give pro soccer another try next year with the Indy Eleven joining the North American Soccer League in 2014. The team will be Indy's ninth pro or semi-pro team since 1973. On Thursday night, it proudly hung its banner in the middle of the Colts' horseshoe on the north side of the stadium.
"It's nice that people can come to downtown Indianapolis to see international quality soccer rather than have to go to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles," said Juergen Sommer, coach of the Indy Eleven. "People really get it. The fan base for soccer is undersold here."
Oscar and Eden Hazard scored first-half goals, leading Chelsea to a 2-0 victory over Inter Milan.