Portugal World Cup
The game may have been a tie, but ESPN definitely won: ESPN’s telecast of Sunday’s United States vs. Portugal match during the 2014 FIFA World Cup set an all-time viewership record. The match averaged 18.2 million viewers, surpassing a previous high set back in 1999 for the Women’s World Cup final (USA vs. China) on ABC. The game (which concluded with a 2-2 tie) peaked with 23 million viewers at one point.
This marked ESPN’s most-viewed non-football telecast ever and is actually the second record-setting World Cup telecast recently. The first 2014 FIFA World Cup match involving the United States (a 2-1 victory over Ghana) averaged 11.1 million viewers—the most-watched men’s soccer match on ESPN at the time.
Plus, here’s the latest big-picture data for the “Americans do/do not watch soccer” debate: The 2006 World Cup coverage on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC combined to average 2 million viewers in 2006, then 2.9 million in 2010 and now 4.3 million in 2014.