Even though it ended in almost-crushing disappointment, the match between the USA and Portugal was the most-watched World Cup game in American history.
The telecast averaged 18,220,000 viewers on ESPN, beating the previous high of 17.975 million which was reached in 1999, when the U.S. Women’s team won the World Cup final in a game played at the Rose Bowl.
It was also the highest rated men’s soccer match in US history. By drawing a rating of 9.6, the US-Portugal game outdrew previous record-holder – the 1994 final match between Italy and Brazil. The aforementioned 1999 women’s match retains the overall ratings record.
It ended up being ESPN’s highest rated non-football program. Ever.
Univision added 6.5 million viewers as well, which means that between Univision and ESPN, approximately 24.7 million Americans tuned in to watch a heart-wrenching (but thrilling) match. Those combined totals beat the previous record of 24.5 million viewers and that was for the 2010 World Cup final.
Does this mean that Americans are primed for a surge in soccer popularity? Not so fast. To put those numbers into perspective, FOX’s afternoon NFL games during the regular season averaged 27.2 million viewers. However, ESPN’s Monday Night Football averaged 13.679 million which may be a more fair comparison given that access to ESPN and cable is more limited than that of FOX.