Based on the early ratings from Nielsen, Fox and Telemundo for the FIFA World Cup final on Sunday between Argentina and France, making the global game of soccer one of America’s new pastimes is becoming a more attainable goooooaaaal.
Though the game fell short of drawing the 26.7 million viewers that tuned in to watch the 2015 Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan in primetime (when the American women won 5-2), the early numbers show Sunday’s final had an English- and Spanish-language combined audience of 25,783,000.
Somewhat surprisingly, Lionel Messi and Argentina’s historic victory over Kylian Mbappé and France easily outdrew Fox’s previous most-watched match of the tournament, USA-England on Black Friday. Stuffed with turkey the day after Thanksgiving, 15,491,000 Americans tuned in to watch the USMNT play to a 0-0 draw with England during group-stage play.
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Encouraging as Sunday’s number is for those who want to see soccer continue to grow in the U.S. ahead of the World Cup coming to North America in 2026, it’s also proof of how far the game has to go in order to get on the same footing as professional football.
Following Sunday’s World Cup final, Fox’s ratings reflect that 18.66 million football fans tuned in to watch national coverage of what was Cowboys-Jaguars in most markets. Later in the day in the national window on CBS, 21.45 million viewers sat through what was Bengals-Buccaneers in the majority of locations. To close out Sunday’s national NFL slate, Sunday Night Football between the Giants and Commanders drew 15.38 million sets of eyeballs. While that number was obviously worse than the viewership for the World Cup final, it was on par with USA-England on Black Friday — and it was the least-watched Week 15 edition of SNF in the last 15 years. That’s to say nothing of the NFL’s crown jewel, the Super Bowl. The 2022 edition of the big game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals had a combined audience of 112.3 million.
An encouraging sign for soccer fans is that the World Cup final and USA-England both out-rated Game 5 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros (12.77 million) and the series-clinching games of the NBA Finals (13.99 million) and the NHL’s Stanley Cup final (5.8 million). Cord-cutters should also be pleased as the tournament amassed 2.75 billion streaming minutes across Fox Sports digital streaming.