Americans are more excited about soccer and they are watching more too. A quarter of Americans reported being more excited about soccer because of the World Cup. This was certainly reflected in TV ratings. There was a 40% increase in viewership during this World Cup. According to Nielsen Company 17 million Americans watched the finals of World Cup four years ago. This year 24.3 million Americans tuned in to watch Spain and the Netherlands face off last Sunday in the World Cup. 19.4 million Americans turned on their TV’s to cheer for the US when we played Ghana. More Americans watched the US’s last game in the World Cup than watched the final game four years ago. The amount of viewership only increased throughout the tournament suggesting that the US’s success as a team attracted American soccer fans and at least in short term fans continued to follow. If such excitement can be maintained over a longer period, it may be good news for the American professional soccer league as well.
Viewership for the World Cup final surpassed the 22.5 million viewers who watched Game 4 of the World Series, and the 23.9 million viewers who caught the NCAA Basketball Championship game this year. It was not far from the 28.2 million who tuned in to watch Game 7 of this year’s NBA finals. But it’s barely twice as many who watched Lebron James announce his new team affiliation (10 million), suggesting the NBA has some serious star power. Finally, the World Cup can’t even begin to compete with American football, Super Bowl XLIV attracted 106.5 million American viewers.
These games are big attractions. The World Cup only happens once every four years and other popular sporting events occur every year. Each of these sports has a pretty large following during regular season as well. The average regular season NFL game attracts 29.8 million viewers (that’s still more than World Cup finals attracted) and 9.9 million viewers watch the average NBA regular season game.
But a mere 300,000 Americans tune into the average Major League Soccer game. So the question remains can the excitement about soccer generated by the World Cup bleed into the regular soccer season, or will Americans forget about soccer and return to their normal viewing habits?