U.S.-Mexico Soccer Match Scores Ratings Victory In U.S. Over Virtually All Other Sports Last Week
NBA and NHL playoffs competed for fans’ attention last week, but a game between the U.S. and Mexican national soccer teams drew more American TV viewers than all but one other sporting event, in a surprising ratings victory for soccer.
Some 3.9 million people tuned into Univision on Sunday to watch the United States defeat Mexico 3-2 in the final round of the CONCACAF Nations League, a new tournament for national soccer teams in North and Central America.
The match earned a bigger audience than any NBA playoff game on ESPN or TNT last week, except for a Thursday night matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns that drew over 4.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.
More people also watched the U.S.-Mexico faceoff than the New York Islanders’ defeat of the Boston Bruins in the NHL’s playoffs Saturday (at 2.3 million viewers), or Simone Biles’ seventh U.S. gymnastics championship win Sunday (at 2.1 million viewers).
The U.S.-Mexico game was the 15th most popular primetime show on broadcast TV networks last week, but it was the most watched program among younger viewers, beating the season premiere of NBC’s America’s Got Talent among viewers 18 to 49.
A pair of CONCACAF Nations League semifinals on Saturday also pulled in large audiences on Univision. Some 2.4 million people watched Mexico beat Costa Rica, and almost 1.3 million watched the United States defeat Honduras.
The CONCACAF Nations League earned strong ratings even though this was the tournament’s inaugural year, and the finals were delayed by 12 months due to Covid-19.
Sports have held onto their ratings dominance while viewership for other TV genres shifts to streaming services, making live sports valuable property for TV networks. Soccer typically draws less attention from U.S. television audiences than other professional sports, and as a result, broadcasters pay far less for rights to televise Major League Soccer than for NFL and NBA games. Still, interest in the sport hasgraduallygrown, and major soccer matches can sometimes garner massive ratings. The 2014 FIFA Men’s World Cup averaged over 4.5 million viewers across dozens of matches on ESPN, including a U.S.-Portugal game that earned nearly 25 million viewers across ESPN and Univision, and the 2018 World Cup final drew more than 11 million viewers even though the U.S. men’s team didn’t qualify for the tournament.
25.4 million. That’s how many Americans watched the United States defeat Japan in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals, the mostwatched soccer game in U.S. history.