Left: A Michigan State University player. Until 2014 there were no restrictions on what counted as a player number.

Top right: The Penn State Three Broomsticks prepare for a match. Although it was not always called by referees, World Cup IV was the first year that teams were not allowed to wear capes during gameplay.

Bottom right: An Ives Pond seeker and chaser run out to start the game. In quidditch, each position is marked by a different colored headband. Seekers wear yellow, chasers wear white, keepers wear green, and beaters wear black.

Photos by: Brittny Kephart. 

Editor’s note, October 28, 2020: This article and others in the history series will be updated to address the lack of diversity in the original text of Quidditch Turns Ten, as well as to more thoroughly discuss quidditch in the past 5 years. Each article will be reviewed and re-released for more inclusivity. Current and past quidditch community members will be invited to contribute to the updated articles, so that we can more accurately tell the story of the past 15 years and include voices that have been missing from the narrative. More information on how to get involved will be available soon. For questions, email info@usquidditch.org

IQA volunteers shoot a World Cup IV promo video in New York City.

Photo by: Kate Lupo

“So what are you going to do now?”

It was November 2009, at the third annual Quidditch World Cup at Middlebury College. Nina, a reporter with VPR, smiled and waited for Alex Benepe’s answer.

“The question caught me off guard,” Alex said years later. “That was the first time I’d really thought about it.” Alex had graduated from Middlebury that spring, and played an advisory role during the organization of the third World Cup.

“After the event was over I had to decide: what do I do next? I didn’t have the confidence in myself to go ahead and do it. I had meetings with a few different people, but I was looking for jobs. I worked as an after school counselor, and then got a job at a Vermont PR firm in December 2009. And even though it was a good job and I liked the company, I hated it. I should have loved it, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to work in an office for other people. I’d always be sitting in the office thinking about quidditch and wondering why I couldn’t do that instead.”

When Alex met Andrew Slack, the executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance, in an elevator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, he asked how to start a nonprofit company. “You need to go talk to a lawyer,” Andrew said.

Alex did, and in March 2010 he incorporated the International Quidditch Association as a nonprofit in the State of Vermont, with a board of directors made up of six quidditch organizers from around the country, a mailing list of over 200 forming quidditch teams, and big plans for the future.

The first thing the new IQA did was move the World Cup from Middlebury to New York City. New York could support more teams and more spectators—and was the media capital of the United States.

Photo by Robin Madel

New York University plays the University of Maryland at World Cup IV. It was the World Cup debut for both teams.

Photo by: Robin Madel

Throughout the lead-up to the fourth annual World Cup there was a constant barrage of emails and phone calls from the media. Bloggers, student newspapers, three documentary crews, The New York Times,The New Yorker, TIME, ESPN, CBS, MTV, CNN, NBC, ABC, NHK, AFP, SBS, and other unfamiliar three-letter acronyms kept the phones ringing at all hours. They wanted press passes, they wanted interviews, they had questions about the formation of the league.

Alex and Alicia Radford, his World Cup co-organizer and an IQA board member, were thrilled and overwhelmed. Forty-six teams from 12 states and one Canadian province competed in the two-day tournament. Matches took place on four pitches, with teams grouped into pools of four for round robin play. The top finishers moved on to a 16-team single elimination bracket. Surprising no one, Middlebury dominated their half of the bracket, beating Penn State (110*-0), then Villanova (110*-20), then Vassar (60*-0). The other half of the bracket was a total upset. According to a TIME reporter, “Looking to get our hands on a serious competitor for Middlebury, all the media organizations at the cup fluttered from pretend contender to pretend contender. irst it was McGill, with a boisterous suit wearing manager and a heavy tolerance for Canadian jokes; they fell to Villanova, who fell to Middlebury. We turned towards Chestnut Hill (eliminated in the Round of 16), then Emerson (eliminated in the quarterfinals), then Pittsburgh (eliminated in the semifinals). After the dust cleared, we realized all three teams had been beat by the same squad, one that no one had been paying attention to: Tufts. But after three straight upsets, could Tufts pull off yet another?”

The sun was setting below the Hudson River when Middlebury and Tufts took their positions on the field for the championship match. The pitch was crowded with spectators six rows deep. A line of Middlebury students in front were shirtless, each chest emblazoned with a blue painted letter spelling out MIDD QUIDD. It was immediately clear how Tufts made it to the finals—although their team was only several months old, they had a hard-hitting, physical game. At first they paced Middlebury, but Tuft’s shooting accuracy left them halfway through the match. Middlebury’s lead slowly grew as the snitch reappeared. The game turned into a battle between two seekers, with the Tufts seeker trying to hold off the Middlebury seeker to keep him from ending the game. But when Middlebury scored again, bringing the score 100-20, the Tufts seeker made a “suicide catch,” grabbing the snitch to end the game 100-50*. Spectators converged on the field, and Middlebury lifted the trophy high for the fourth time.

Tufts Quidditch at brooms down at World Cup IV. Photo by: Chris Cabeza.

Spectators could learn about and pet live owls at World Cup IV. Photo by: Robin Madel.

From Laurie Beckoff

“Quidditch gave me the chance to take on more responsibility than anyone would normally give a 16-year-old. I was able to join a community of pas- sionate, dedicated volunteers with all different back- grounds in Harry Potter, sports, journalism, and event organization. Despite being younger than most of the staff, I was welcomed with open arms and given the opportunity to write, plan, and be actively involved in the biggest tournaments and projects. I entered the quidditch world just before the final Potter films were released, and it was the perfect way for me to channel my Potter-induced energy and keep the magic alive with a group of people so devoted to this ridiculously intense and intensely ridiculous thing. My four years with the IQA, particularly as an entertainment coordinator, gave me valuable skills that I have used in my various arts internships and jobs, and interviewers frequently ask about quidditch when they see it on my resume. It was an honor to be part of the development of quidditch, and a privilege to have quidditch as such a big part of my personal and professional development.”

 Photo above: Middlebury at brooms down at World Cup IV. Photo by: Chris Cabeza.

“If World Cups I through IV had seen quidditch grow quickly, World Cup V was when the sport exploded.”

Logan Anbinder was a beater for the University of Maryland and would go on to become a dedicated and longstanding volunteer for the IQA. The fifth annual World Cup was his second major tournament.

“With more than twice as many teams as the previous year, and at a facility several times larger (literally on its own island!) World Cup V took a lot of people by surprise,” Logan said. “For most everyone at the tournament, it was a chance to make friends and have experiences that they never would have imagined when joining their collegiate teams just a few weeks prior. For the tournament organizers, it was nothing if not a crash course in event management! The entire weekend had an indelible impact on the sport and, as Middlebury’s dominance began to wane, the tournament was a fitting farewell to the original era of quidditch and a herald of the incredible things to come.” 

World Cup V was the largest yet: 96 teams competed on ten fields at Randall’s Island in New York City. The final matches took place in the adjacent Icahn Stadium, which seated 5,000. Photo by: Loring Masters.

The year between World Cups IV and V was a busy one. The IQA sanctioned six major tournaments throughout North America: the Western Cup, Swamp Cup, Midwest Cup, Canadian Cup, Southwest Cup, and Empire Classic. Quidditch had become more than a one-event sideshow—it was developing into a sport with a regular season. And as the sport’s popularity spread, so did the number of teams at large, traditional sports universities like Louisiana State, UCLA, and the University of Texas at Austin. World Cup V was the first year that each region of the United States was well represented, with six teams from California and Arizona attending.

Kansas vs University of Vermont

The snitch waits to be released in a Kansas vs. University of Vermont game. Photo by: Jerry Wang

High school quidditch

Eight teams competed in the high school division at World Cup V. In this shot, a Trinity School chaser brings the quaffle up the field with Darien High School in pursuit. Photo by: Jerry Wang.

ASU vs Deleware

Willie Jackson, Arizona State University keeper, takes the quaffle “coast to coast” against Delaware. Increasingly teams used their keepers as a fourth chaser. Photo by: Jerry Wang.

Championship match

University of Florida takes their place in Icahn Stadium for the World Cup V final. Photo by: Jerry Wang.

By Becca Dupont

“My favorite experience in quidditch has to be taking the field beneath the lights of Icahn Stadium in the World Cup V semi-finals. The stadium atmosphere was unlike anything I had experienced in quidditch at the time. The excitement and high stakes feeling of that game is something I won’t ever forget. Having ‘Sexy and I know It’ as our intro song completely makes the memory. It perfectly combined that unique magical feel of quidditch with the competitive atmosphere of the World Cup tournament.

“Quidditch has given me the competitive sports atmosphere I always craved combined with the accepting and open community I didn’t know I needed. Quidditch has opened so many doors and given me so many opportunities I know I would not have encountered otherwise. I have been connected with players across the U.S. and the world. When I look back on my life I know some of my most special memories and proudest accomplishments will have come from my involvement with this sport.”

Quidditch Turns Ten Coffee Table Book

This limited edition, commemorative coffee table book chronicles the rise of quidditch from the perspective of the organizers, players, and photographers who have shaped the sport into what it is today. Quidditch Turns Ten is a hardcover, 10x13 inch 124-page full-color book, with gold foil on the cover and thick interior pages.