The U.S. Men’s National Team just got kicked to the curb. Step aside, guys, and make way for the wild celebrations, congratulations and the shower of gold confetti that was the Women’s World Cup final. And mostly, don't get knocked down by the Nielsen ratings.
An estimated 20.3 million Americans watched on television as the United States beat Japan in the final of the Women's World Cup on Sunday, setting a record for U.S. viewership of a soccer match, according to preliminary TV ratings data. (The previous record, set when an estimated 18.2 million U.S. television viewers watched the U.S. men's team tie Portugal on ESPN during the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, fell hard.)
Nielsen figures showed that Sunday's game, which was broadcast live on Fox, was by far the most-watched TV broadcast of the night. Fox's post-match live discussion drew a whopping 14.6 million people, according to Nielsen. According to a release from Fox, the game scored the the highest metered market rating ever for a soccer game in the U.S. on a single network, surpassing the previous mark set for the Women’s World Cup final between the USA and China in 1999 on ABC (13.3 mm rating.)
Additional metered market highlights for Japan-USA:
Match rating +77 percent over the 8.6 recorded by ESPN for the USA vs. Japan Women’s World Cup final in 2011
The match’s metered market audience peaked at 18.3/31 from 8:45-9:00 PM ET which included the USA’s winning celebration
The top 5 local markets for the match: Kansas City (20.6/35), St. Louis (20.5/33), San Diego (19.5/41), Denver (19.4/36) and Austin (19.1/37)
While some 17 million American viewers tuned in to the 7 p.m. ET start of Sunday's game, that number quickly grew to 21.86 million an hour later — and reached 22.86 million at 8:30 p.m. ET, according to preliminary data from industry website TV Media Insights.
And attention just kept growing. The next morning, the Internet was full of news of Carli Lloyd's hat trick, bigger-than-life-sized play throughout the game and Abby Wambach kissing her wife after the final whistle.
The ratings figures are comparable to the 2014 World Series' Game 7, which attracted 23.5 million viewers — far more than any other game of the 2014 series.
The actual in-stadium attendance, however, was a different matter, according to an article in Soccer America Daily. While the total attendance of 1,353,506 for the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada set a tournament record, the average of 26,029 fans a game was the lowest in 12 years.
The number of the games played was expanded from 32 teams in 2011 to 52 teams in 2015. Note: FIFA also counts each doubleheader as two separate matches, boosting the total attendance. Seven matches had over 50,000 spectators in attendance. The top crowd, unsurprisingly, was 54,027 for the Canada-England quarterfinal in Vancouver.