The United States was eliminated from FIFA World Cup play in South Africa by Ghana, but the game Saturday drew a huge soccer audience for US television. The ESPN broadcast on ABC drew an estimated 14.9 million viewers.
The 2-1 US loss in extra time, which eliminated the Americans from the tournament, was the most-watched FIFA World Cup game among households and viewers. The 2.5 hour match window (2:30-5:12 p.m. ET) averaged an 8.2 rating, 9,455,000 households, and 14,863,000 viewers, based on fast nationals.
The U.S.-Ghana game ranks as the most-watched Men’s World Cup game ever, with only the 1999 Women’s Final (US vs. China) averaging more households and viewers for a soccer game (11,307,000 households and 17,975,000 viewers). Additionally, the match ranks as the third highest-rated Men’s World Cup game on record, behind two matches in 1994 – 9.3 rating (US vs. Brazil, Quarterfinal, 7/4/94) and 9.5 rating (Italy vs. Brazil, Final, 7/17/94). The 1999 Women’s World Cup Final (US vs. China) also delivered an 11.4 rating.
The U.S.-Ghana match represents increases of 11% in ratings (vs. 7.4) and 13% in viewership (vs. 13,130,000) from ABC’s highly-anticipated U.S.-England World Cup game on June 12, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
The entire three-hour telecast (2-5:12 p.m.) – including 30 minutes of pre-match coverage – delivered a 7.5 household rating, 8,649,000 households, and 13,505,000 viewers.
San Diego was the top market for Saturday’s Team USA game, delivering a 15.4 rating. San Diego was the top market for all three previous US matches – vs. England (11.5, ABC), vs. Slovenia (8.5, ESPN) and vs. Algeria (8.9, ESPN). Rounding out the top 10 for Saturday’s match were Washington, D.C. (13.8), San Francisco (13.3), Cincinnati (12.9), Las Vegas (11.7), Austin (11.4), Columbus, Ohio (10.6), Norfolk, Va. (10.6), Seattle-Tacoma (10.6) and West Palm Beach (10.5).
Also, ESPN’s Uruguay-South Korea Round of 16 match on Saturday morning delivered a 2.5 coverage rating (2.2 U.S. rating), 2,513,000 households, and 3,246,000 viewers.
Through 50 games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the ESPN networks (ESPN/ESPN2/ABC) are averaging a 1.8 US rating, 2,081,000 households, and 2,781,000 viewers. The rating is up 48% from 2006 (1.2), while household impressions are up 54% (from 1,349,000) and viewers are up 60% (from 1,740,000). (Note from ESPN: Ratings and viewership numbers are based on the specific match windows, not including pre-match studio coverage.)
RBR-TVBR observation: No longer is the United States out of step with the rest of the world regarding soccer, even if most of the world calls it “football.” For a few decades American kids have been kicking the ball. Now they have grown up understanding the game and are now cheering fans for US teams in world play. It would be great for American broadcasters if the USA wins the bidding for the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup.