Welcome to the big-time, U.S. soccer -- at least when it comes to television ratings.
The U.S. national team’s thrilling 2-1 victory over Ghana on Monday drew 11,093,000 viewers, making it the most-viewed men’s soccer match ever to air on ESPN or ESPN2. The telecast also averaged a 6.3 household rating, which was also the best-ever mark for a soccer event on ESPN's platforms. It was ESPN's most-viewed telecast since the January 6 BCS National Championship (which drew 25,572,000 viewers) and the company said an additional 1.4 million people viewed the game on its WatchESPN product.
The East Coast viewership for USA-Ghana was particularly strong. Washington, D.C. (which has been the top-rated market for ESPN/ESPN2/ABC's coverage so far) led all markets, followed by New York, Hartford-New Haven, Boston, Columbus, Baltimore, Providence, Orlando, San Francisco and Norfolk, respectively.
Through the first 14 matches of the World Cup, ESPN has averaged 4,112,000 viewers, up 23 percent (3,346,000) over the 2010 World Cup at this point in the tournament. (For comparison: The ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 coverage from South Africa averaged 3.3 million viewers for the entire competition.) The most-watched soccer game in U.S. television history remains the 2010 World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands which drew a total of 24.3 million U.S. viewers.
The numbers have also been strong for Univision, which owns the Spanish-language rights in the U.S. The U.S.-Ghana match drew 4.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched U.S. Soccer game ever on that network. It topped the previous best U.S. match (USA-England in 2010) by 17 percent. The match also drew more than 1.7 million views on Univision Digital. Through the first eight matches of the tournament, Univision had averaged 3.7 million viewers, seven percent higher than ABC/ESPN's average over the same eight matches.
The United States' next game (against Portugal) will air Sunday on ESPN, with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m.