You’ve seen the celebrations everywhere. First, there was the homecoming in Los Angeles. Next, there was the appearance on Good Morning America. Then there was the heroes’ welcome of a parade in New York, covered everywhere on television from FOX to ESPN. Finally, there was the on-stage appearance at a Taylor Swift concert, the Kodak moment. The euphoria from the Women’s World Cup will clearly last a long time, and the party has already been extended a week. But can the party carry into the NWSL?
According to FOX Sports, the Friday Women’s World Cup clash between the U.S. Women’s National Team and Sweden drew an average of 4.5 million viewers, eclipsing the record for any soccer game every broadcasted by the network. This is huge news not just for the women’s game, but also soccer as a whole as it continues to see an image boost in the United States.
The larger TV audience for this game was possibly helped by the pre-match drama created when former U.S coach, now Sweden coach Pia Sundhage made some insulting remarks about a few of her old players to the media. Since the game ended in a 0-0 draw, both parties escaped with their reputations intact, at least temporarily, and the audience did not see any fireworks that might have been expected from these comments. The crowds in Canada have also looked impressive, particularly from the presence of the American Outlaws fan supporter organization in Winnipeg, where both U.S. games have been played. According to NPR before the World Cup, 700 members of the club were expected to make the trip north, but on TV, the overall turnout looks even better than expected with near sell-out crowds for both matches.
According to FOX and the Washington Post Soccer Insider, in addition to the record breaking average audience, the peak audience was 6.4 million viewers, and the top 5 markets for viewers were in Richmond, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Columbus, and St. Louis. The first match of the tournament for the U.S. drew 3.3 million viewers on Fox Sports 1, more than 3 times higher than the opening game for the team in 2011. The next game for the U.S. is on a Tuesday night against Nigeria with less drama, so it will be intriguing to see if the number of viewers continue to increase.
According to FIFA, American TV audiences aren’t the only ones breaking records. In Canada, a record 1.8 million viewers tuned in to see their hosting team play the opening match, and in China 2.3 million viewers watched the same game, up from 1.3 million viewers in the highest watch game at the last World Cup in 2011. As the Women’s World Cup continues, it will be very interesting to see just how many more records are broken. FOX Sports should be very happy with the results and excited for the future as they own the English-language broadcast rights to all Men’s and Women’s FIFA World Cups in the U.S. through 2026.