Last Sunday’s soccer match between the United States and Japan, a rematch of the previous Women’s World Cup Final match in which Japan defeated the United States, set a ratings record for broadcast or cable TV for the sport in the United States, bringing a big victory for Fox and its coverage of the sport over the past month. The previous record for viewership for a soccer game in the USA was 18.2 million viewers, for last year’s men’s match in the World Cup between the United States and Portugal. The US Women’s National Team’s victory on Sunday far outpaced that, with more than 25 million English-language viewers.
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Nielsen estimates that Sunday’s game averaged a whopping 26.7 million viewers, with 25.4 million watching the English-language telecast on Fox and another 1.3 million checking out the Spanish-language airing on Telemundo. The total audience is larger than that for every NBA Finals basketball game since 2010 and every World Series baseball game since 2004.
The big tune-in for soccer on Sunday, along with a portion of the USA-Germany women’s soccer game on Tuesday, propelled Fox to an easy demo win for the week of June 29-July 5; the network drew about as many young-adult viewers as its two closest competitors (NBC and CBS) combined. Fox also scored a rare victory in total viewers (6.7 million).
The lesson here is that soccer can be a big moneymaker for broadcast and cable networks in the USA, as long as the US National Team—either men’s or women’s—is involved.