On Sunday the US Women’s National Soccer Team won it’s third FIFA World Cup emphatically over Japan by a score of 5-2. The game broke television records as it was the highest metered market rating ever for a soccer game in the United States on a single network (FOX). Sunday’s game averaged 26.7 million viewers, with 25.4 million watching the English telecast on Fox and another 1.3 million viewing the Spanish telecast airing on Telemundo. In fact, the audience was larger than that of every NBA Finals basketball game since 2010 as well as every World Series baseball game since 2004.
The previous soccer television viewing high in the US was 18.2 million on ESPN last year for the United States-Portugal group stage Men’s World Cup contest. While, the previous high for women’s soccer in the States was 18 million set in 1999 for the World Cup final on ESPN between the US and China. Moreover, Sunday was a 77 percent jump from the 2011 final that also featured the US and Japan on ESPN. I’m not sure anyone truly expected the numbers to be as high as they were. However, given the holiday weekend, and without any major competing sporting events, the US Women did exactly that, and they delivered.
And while the US women receive an additional $2 million for winning the World Cup (a mere fraction of the $35 million the men are awarded), the players will receive supplemental earnings in endorsements. Players like Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo will certainly capitalize on their sponsorship and endorsements deals with companies like Nike. Team apparel sales went up 3,000 percent on Sunday.
The US demographic tends to be a “big event” audience, as Americans tend to support their National teams in big international competitions. So the question remains will these shockingly high rating numbers transfer over to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). All but one of the women on the US World Cup team currently play in the NWSL which gives the league great exposure.
In the last 20 years, there have been four professional women’s soccer leagues: the W-League, the WUSA, the WPS, and now the NWSL. The first three folded after no more than three seasons due to poor league management and a general lack of interest. However, it seems like the NWSL is going to be here to stay this time around due to the significant investment US Soccer has made into the league. The timing of the 1994 Men’s World Cup being hosted in the States prior to the launch of the 1996 Major League Soccer on the men’s side is very reminiscent to the timing here with the NWSL. In aligning the sports largest event around the launching of the league helps build momentum for fan interest and ticket sales.
There has already been a significant uptick in ticket sales, as the Houston Dash expect a record attendance of 15,000, as they only average 4,500. The Portland Thorn expect their first ever sell-out crowd of 21,000 next Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Seattle Reign host Western New York this weekend and expect to double their average attendance of 3,000 to 6,000. The question remains though, will the league be able to maintain these ticket sales through until the final week of the season in September.
Sunday proves that the United States is becoming more and more of a legitimate soccer nation. We will see if the Women’s luck on Sunday carries over to the Men’s side as they continue their Gold Cup run tonight against Haiti in Foxboro, MA. Meanwhile, the US Women will be celebrating in a parade four hours south in New York City.