The Spot

Including Spanish-Language Viewers, Cup Final Was Most-Watched Soccer Game Ever in U.S.

Tobin Heath celebrates her goal against Japan in Sunday’s World Cup final.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Fox’s coverage of yesterday’s 5-2 United States win over Japan in the women’s World Cup final was the most-watched single-network soccer broadcast ever in the United States, Fox said Monday, with 25.4 million viewers estimated to have seen the game on the channel. The soccer match that previously held the record for highest total viewership in the United States was the 2014 men’s World Cup final between Germany and Argentina, whose estimated audience including both ABC and Univision broadcasts was 26.5 million. The Spanish-language broadcast of USA-Japan was on Telemundo—which announced this afternoon that an estimated 1.3 million people watched its coverage of the final, putting the estimated audience for the match at a total of 26.7 million. Thus it was, by a bald eagle’s nose, the most-watched soccer competition ever broadcast in the United States, an event whose numbers are in the neighborhood of the largest-ever audiences for NBA and college basketball games. (Football remains the king of sports TV, and the World Series used to draw more than 50 million viewers.)

Those ratings, by the way, are estimates of in-home viewership (specifically the average number of people who were watching at any given moment during the broadcast). This New York Times piece suggests that such estimates actually undercount the total number of people who see live sporting events on TV by a about 10 percent because they don’t factor in those who watch at bars and restaurants. In the span of a single generation, then, the women’s World Cup has gone from an event that was broadcast on tape delay in the United States by “SportsChannel America” to one watched live by some 30 million Americans. Today, most truly, sisters are doin’ it for themselves*.

*Except when it comes to working at Fox Sports, whose website lists 17 male executives against zero women and still has an informational page about the “Fox Sports Girls,” a cheerleader-like group of tight-clothed individuals who, identified by their first names only (“Get to know Jasmine of the Fox Sports Florida Girls!”) made promotional appearances for the network from 2011 until early 2015. (Telemundo’s sports coverage, though, is run by a woman named Alina Falcon.)