Why are soccer players so hot? There's a scientific reason

For many, the World Cup represents the best in soccer, religiously watched for amazing saves and incredible goals. For non-sports fans, there's a more primal reason to watch: all the smoking hot players.

Some might mourn the elimination of Portugal because they'll miss seeing Cristiano Ronaldo's dazzling goals. While others will miss him hitching up his shorts and showing off his toned thighs.

England's striker Harry Kane boasts some serious skills — he's one of the leading scorers of the tournament — and serious good looks. Sweden's midfielder Jimmy Durmaz has been playing professionally for over 10 years. Off the field, he stuns with his smoldering eyes. (He's also spoken out against racist chants during games.)

What is it about soccer players?

56 PHOTOS
The best photos from the World Cup
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The best photos from the World Cup
KAZAN, RUSSIA - JUNE 24: Yerry Mina of Colombia scores his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group H match between Poland and Colombia at Kazan Arena on June 24, 2018 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Jerome Boateng of Germany brings down Marcus Berg of Sweden to earn his second yellow card and be sent sent off during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Sweden at Fisht Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Ola Toivonen of Sweden scores his team's first goal past Manuel Neuer of Germany during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Sweden at Fisht Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Brazil's forward Gabriel Jesus (R) vies with Costa Rica's midfielder Bryan Ruiz during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 22, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 22: Neymar Jr of Brazil reacts following his sides victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Brazil and Costa Rica at Saint Petersburg Stadium on June 22, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - France's midfielder Blaise Matuidi (L) and Peru's midfielder Edison Flores compete for the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Peru at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
ROSTOV-ON-DON, RUSSIA - JUNE 20: Osama Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia collides with Edinson Cavani of Uruguay during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Uruguay and Saudi Arabia at Rostov Arena on June 20, 2018 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group B - Iran vs Spain - Kazan Arena, Kazan, Russia - June 20, 2018 Iran's Morteza Pouraliganji reacts REUTERS/John Sibley TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 20: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores his team's first goal past Monir El Kajoui during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Morocco at Luzhniki Stadium on June 20, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Stu Forster/REMOTE/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Poland's goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (C) makes a save from Senegal's forward Moussa Konate (R) as Poland's defender Jan Bednarek (L) looks on during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group H football match between Poland and Senegal at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 19, 2018. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group B - Portugal vs Morocco - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 20, 2018 Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Egypt vs Uruguay - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 15, 2018 Egypt's Amr Warda falls on the pitch REUTERS/Darren Staples TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Russia vs Saudi Arabia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 14, 2018 Russia's Aleksandr Golovin (not pictured) scores their fifth goal from a free kick REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Uruguay's forward Luis Suarez eyes the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Egypt and Uruguay at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 15, 2018. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Jose Gimenez of Uruguay scores his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Mohamed Elshenawy of Egypt makes a save during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Egypt vs Uruguay - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 15, 2018 Uruguay's Jose Gimenez scores their first goal REUTERS/Darren Staples TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Egypt vs Uruguay - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 15, 2018 Egypt's Tarek Hamed in action with Uruguay's Giorgian De Arrascaeta REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Aleksandr Golovin of Russia scores his team's fifth goal past Abdullah Al Muaiouf of Saudi Arabia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Jose Gimenez of Uruguay celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Sam Morsy of Egypt and Edinson Cavani of Uruguay battle for possession during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 15, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group F - Germany vs Mexico - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 17, 2018 Germany's Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich in action with Mexico's Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez and Jesus Gallardo REUTERS/Christian Hartmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Mexico's forward Javier Hernandez (R) vies for the ball with Germany's defender Jerome Boateng during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Germany and Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 17, 2018. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 17: Hirving Lozano of Mexico celebrates with Jesus Gallardo by sliding on their knees after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Mexico at Luzhniki Stadium on June 17, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Mexico's goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in action during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Germany and Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 17, 2018. (Photo by Antonin THUILLIER / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ANTONIN THUILLIER/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: Enzo Perez of Argentina clears the ball under a challenge by Alfred Finnbogason of Iceland during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by David Ramos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: Emil Hallfredsson of Iceland and Javier Mascherano of Argentina battle for possession during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 16: General view inside the stadium as Argentina fans celebrate as Serigo Aguero of Argentina celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 18: Harry Kane of England celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between Tunisia and England at Volgograd Arena on June 18, 2018 in Volgograd, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 18: Jose Luis Rodriguez and Eric Davis of Panama clash with Dries Mertens of Belgium during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between Belgium and Panama at Fisht Stadium on June 18, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group H - Colombia vs Japan - Mordovia Arena, Saransk, Russia - June 19, 2018 Japan's Yuto Nagatomo in action with Colombia's Juan Fernando Quintero REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Iran's defender Morteza Pouraliganji reacts after defeat during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Iran and Spain at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 20, 2018. (Photo by Luis Acosta / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Denmark's defender Simon Kjaer (L) and Australia's midfielder Mile Jedinak (2L) eye the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between Denmark and Australia at the Samara Arena in Samara on June 21, 2018. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 21: A Peru fan cries after defeat in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group C match between France and Peru at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 21, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA - JUNE 21: Wilfredo Caballero of Argentina holds his head in his hands as he stands dejected after his mistake leads to a Croatia goal scored by Ante Rebic (not pictured) during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on June 21, 2018 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Argentina's goalkeeper Willy Caballero misses to save a goal by Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric (unseen) during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Argentina and Croatia at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Costa Rica's defender Bryan Oviedo touches Brazil's forward Neymar's head as he cries after scoring a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 22, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Nigeria's midfielder John Obi Mikel (L) vies with Iceland's forward Jon Bodvarsson during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Nigeria and Iceland at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 22, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigeria's forward Ahmed Musa (R) and Nigeria's goalkeeper Francis Uzoho celebrate their victory at the end of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Nigeria and Iceland at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 22, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 22: Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Serbia and Switzerland at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 22, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 22, 2018: Switzerland's Valon Behrami, Granit Xhaka, and Stephan Lichtsteiner (L-R front) celebrate a goal in a First Stage Group E football match between Serbia and Switzerland at Kaliningrad Stadium (Baltika Arena) at FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS (Photo by Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images)
23rd June 2018, Spartak Stadium, Moscow, Russia; FIFA World Cup Football, Group G, Belgium versus Tunisia; Thomas Meunier of Belgium breaks towards goal after beating the offside trap from Tunisia (photo by Ulrik Pedersen/Action Plus via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - South Korea's forward Son Heung-min reacts after scoring their first goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Mexico at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexico's defender Carlos Salcedo (L) jumps against South Korea's forward Hwang Hee-chan (R) during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Mexico at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on June 23, 2018. (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - South Korea's defender Kim Young-gwon (L) and Mexico's forward Javier Hernandez jump for the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Mexico at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on June 23, 2018. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Toni Kroos of Germany scores his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Sweden at Fisht Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Toni Kroos of Germany scores his team's second goal to put his team in front 2-1 during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Sweden at Fisht Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - England's defender John Stones scores a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between England and Panama at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Fans hold banners with the image of Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 25, 2018. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Saudi Arabia's forward Salem Al-Dawsari celebrates scoring his team's winning goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 25, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
SARANSK, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Mehdi Taremi of Iran reacts after missing a chance on goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Iran and Portugal at Mordovia Arena on June 25, 2018 in Saransk, Russia. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
SARANSK, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Karim Ansarifard of Iran celebrates with teammates Vahid Amiri and Majid Hosseini after scoring his team's first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Iran and Portugal at Mordovia Arena on June 25, 2018 in Saransk, Russia. (Photo by Maja Hitij - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
SARANSK, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal speaks his mind to Morteza Pouraliganji of Iran during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Iran and Portugal at Mordovia Arena on June 25, 2018 in Saransk, Russia. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Noureddine Amrabat of Morocco battles with Andres Iniesta of Spain during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Spain and Morocco at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 25: Iago Aspas of Spain back heels in past Monir El Kajoui of Morocco to score his sides second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Spain and Morocco at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Argentina's defender Marcos Rojo (lower) celebrates his goal with Argentina's forward Lionel Messi during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Nigeria and Argentina at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 26, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
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"It is quite likely that elite soccer players are more attractive than the general population … They are young men who work out a lot, spend a lot of time outside and who are generally healthy," Erik Postma, an evolutionary biologist at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, told TODAY via email. "Furthermore, fame, wealth and success make you more attractive."

Sure, but other professional athletes are rich and famous too, so it has to be more than that.

Evolutionarily, women were attracted to males because they thought they'd be good mates, research indicates. Strong jaws, washboard abs, muscular arms and legs once meant that a man would be a good provider, making him a more desirable partner.

"[A]t least some of the things that make for a good soccer player (strong, fast and healthy) also make for a good husband and father," said Postma.

Soccer players like Japan's Shinji Kagawa have lean, well-defined muscles with almost no body fat. Long legs, powerful thighs and lean body are combined with high endurance levels.

"When it comes to male attractiveness, there is a lot of emphasis on strength. However … It might have been particularly important to have a high endurance performance," said Postma, who studied the attractiveness of Tour de France athletes. His research found that people thought cyclists with better endurance were hotter.

Soccer certainly requires endurance with players running about 10 miles during a game, noted Dr. David Geier, a sports medicine expert and orthopedic surgeon in Charleston, South Carolina. They have strong thighs and calf muscles to jump and change direction quickly.

"You basically have to run whenever needed for 90 minutes. I would venture that many people in society [couldn't do that]," Geier said.

Interestingly, not all positions are created equally. People believe different positions require different skills, which makes a player more or less attractive. Research has found that people find forwards in both hockey and soccer hotter than defenders. Though fans of Shakira's partner, Spain's Gerard Piqué, would likely disagree with those findings: He may play defense, but he's just as attractive as any other player.

World Cup wonders

From Mohamed Salah to Luis Suárez, soccer players are considered complete athletes, with high endurance, strong thighs, speed ... And their amazing attractiveness: The bodies of soccer players are close to Western ideals of beauty.

"If you look back at (sculptures) of the Greek gods, (soccer players') bodies look very similar," Postma said. "[They're] much more in line with our traditional impression of beauty and what an ideal body can look like."

What makes soccer players more attractive than other athletes? Football, basketball, baseball and hockey players demand such unusual body types, drawing athletes from a smaller population.

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2018 World Cup opening ceremony
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2018 World Cup opening ceremony
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Russian Soprano Aida Garifullina performs during the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Lars Baron - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Artists perform in the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Lars Baron - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: British popstar Robbie Williams performs during the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: British popstar Robbie Williams performs during the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
A general view during the opening ceremony before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, 2018. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14, 2018: Russian soprano Aida Garifullina performs at the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at Luzhniki Stadium. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Robbie Williams performs at the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14, 2018: Performers at the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at Luzhniki Stadium. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Robbie Williams and Aida Garifullina perform during the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: British popstar Robbie Williams performs during the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: General View of performers at the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Soccer Football - World Cup - Opening Ceremony - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - June 14, 2018 General view during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
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"Those guys are enormous compared to soccer players," Geier said.

There's also a psychological connection. Soccer players don't wear helmets so it's much easier to see them reacting dramatically after a great play. The hugging, kissing and emotional swagger also makes them sexier.

Uruguay's Edinson Cavani often tears off his shirt to celebrate while Brazil's Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is known for his dramatic flops (he's also not afraid to lose his shirt).

"Being able to see their emotions and reactions on the field, I think [that adds to their attraction]," Geier says. "You get a better sense of who they are."

Seeing who they are also allows us to see their symmetrical faces. Kendra Schmid, associate professor in biostatics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, has studied what makes faces attractive, using the golden ratio, a number believed to lead to the most beautiful shapes or buildings. When it comes to faces, it means the features are appropriately spaced, the eyes, for example, are the width of one eye apart.

While watching the World Cup, she noticed that many players have attractive geometric features: Their upper lips seem proportionate, their ear length equals nose length and the face divides in an equal third. In other words, the formula for hotness.

"I have noticed many of the soccer players do exhibit some of these proportions," she said.

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