World Cup Ratings Put U.S. Soccer on the Map

Americans are watching and streaming the World Cup in record numbers

World Cup fever in the United States has some NFL fans anxiously eyeing their TVs. Could it be that their beloved football might one day be eclipsed by what the rest of the world calls “football?”

Not likely—at least for now. But the startling TV ratings for the U.S. team’s matches since it began play against Ghana on June 18 are food for thought. The June 26 match against Portugal attracted 24.7 million viewers. That’s almost as many as watched this year’s BCS National Championship game (26.4 million), and more than the Kentucky-UConn NCAA Final (21.2), the fifth game of the NBA Finals (17.9), and the Stanley Cup Finals (average 5.0 per game).

Just imagine the size of the viewing audience if the U.S. reaches the World Cup Final on July 13. Could the match surpass this year’s record-setting Super Bowl of 112.2 million viewers?

Let’s not get carried away. But let’s do look at some other interesting facts and numbers related to Cup viewership as the tournament enters its final two weeks:

• The U.S.-Germany match on June 26 drew 1.4 million streaming users to WatchESPN, a record, according to ESPN.

• 1.7 million concurrent users streamed both the U.S.-Germany match and Portugal-Ghana, which was played at the same time, and whose score impacted on both matches.

• Demand for both matches temporarily crashed ESPN’s service at 1:40 Eastern Time. Peak viewership came ten minutes later.

• Spanish language network Univision reported that 10.4 million viewed the Mexico-Netherlands round-of-16 match on June 29, making it the most watched soccer game ever on the network.

• The same match was seen by 9.24 million viewers in the United Kingdom, despite the fact that England was eliminated from the tournament ten days earlier.

• 9.2 million viewers in the Netherlands watched the match, representing 55 percent of the country’s total population of 16.8 million.

• Online traffic for the tournament’s second match, played on June 13 between Spain and the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2010 final, was 3.4 terabits of data per second. That made it almost as popular in the States as the U.S.-Canada Men’s ice hockey game at this year’s Winter Olympics (3.5 terabits).

• It’s widely expected that combined viewership of the 2014 World Cup overall will outdraw the 2010 Cup, which was seen by an estimated 1 billion people.