With the most thrilling stages of the World Cup still to follow, there remains little doubt that the record breaking television ratings represent the biggest story of how the sport has captivated the United States.
In a staggering figure released by Nielsen Media Research, World Cup matches have reached more than a third of the nation, an estimated 34 percent of all viewers in the USA.
Nielsen says that a total of 99.2 million viewers have watched at least six minutes of World Cup action as of the conclusion of the Round of 16. With eight high profile matches still to be played, the 2010 figure of 99.2 million has blown by the total of 91.4 million viewers to watch parts of the 2006 World Cup.
“Even with the World Cup’s most crucial games still to come, a reach of 99.2 million viewers suggests that there’s a big American appetite for world class soccer,” said Stephen Master, VP of sports at Nielsen.
The Round of 16 match-up between the USA and Ghana on ABC Sports will go down in history as the most watched soccer match ever in the USA with a total of 19.4 million combined viewers between English and Spanish-language broadcasts.
The records continued to pile up with the Argentina vs. Mexico second round match-up which drew 9.4 million viewers to make it the highest rated program in US Spanish-language television history.
WORLD CUP SURPASSES TRADITIONAL US SPORTING EVENTS
The 19.4 million viewers for USA vs. Ghana surpassed the average audience of 18.1 million viewers for the NBA finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
The same World Cup rating was nearly triple the Game 6 decider of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers, which drew a 36-year high seven million households.
USA vs. Ghana also outdid the average viewers for an NFL regular season broadcast (18.4 million), according to Time.
Lastly, the total viewers for the USA vs. Ghana elimination game, played on a Saturday afternoon, also beat out what FOX averaged for the 2009 World Series for baseball games played during primetime (19.1 million).
In other major sporting events of the year, the final round of the Masters pulled in 16.7 million people while the 2010 Kentucky Derby was also in the range at 16.5 million. Both finished a few million shy of USA vs. Ghana.
MIAMI LOVES ITS FUTBOL
Another angle to the ratings, which is sure to provide expansion team fodder in the months to follow, the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market has registered the highest ratings for both English and Spanish-language telecasts.
San Diego was the top-ranked English-language market in 2006 and stands fourth this year behind Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, New York and Washington, D.C.