The USWNT’s Draw Versus Portugal Will Cost Fox Dearly

The team's group-stage finish relegates the US women to not-so-great match times

Silva Jessica of Portugal controls the ball against Team USA.
A draw with Portugal was a big loss for Team USA.
Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi via Getty

Following a scoreless first half in the U.S. women’s national team’s group-stage match against Portugal, former USWNT star Carli Lloyd offered her thoughts on what she’d seen from a Fox broadcast studio. “Not good enough,” Lloyd said. “There’s so much to unpack, I don’t think we have time to do that right now, but honestly not good enough. At all.”

That’s probably the same thing that Fox executives were thinking after the match ended in a 0-0 draw, a result that allowed the USWNT to advance but also relegated them to second place in Group E following the Netherlands’ 7-0 rout of Vietnam. As a result of their second-place finish, the U.S. women will not be one of the top seeds moving forward and will thus not play any of the team’s remaining games in primetime, no matter how far they advance in the tournament.

“Fox was betting on the USWNT winning its group (-400 betting favorites pre-tournament) when it collaborated with FIFA on knockout-stage match windows,” according to Front Office Sports. “Had the U.S. won the group, it would’ve played on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET — and if victorious, the following Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. Those are the only two East Coast primetime slots left in the tournament being played in Australia and New Zealand.”

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If the U.S. is able to win against Sweden on Sunday (5 a.m. kickoff ET) in the round of 16, they’ll potentially have three more games on the way to potentially winning a third-straight World Cup trophy. These would be the start times:

  1. Quarterfinals: Friday, Aug. 11 at 3:30 a.m.
  2. Semifinals: Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 4 a.m.
  3. Final: Sunday, Aug. 20 at 6 a.m.

It’s a far-from-ideal situation for Fox, which drew a record 6.429 million viewers for last week’s primetime match between the USA and the Netherlands, a 1-1 draw. The lack of primetime games for the USWNT moving forward is a big loss for Fox in the ratings department and will also not do much to help introduce the casual sports fan to the world of women’s soccer.

Realistically, Fox’s best shot a recouping all that lost viewership is if the American women make it all the way to the World Cup final and are able to play in that early Sunday morning time slot. It won’t be a primetime game, but it’s the best Fox can hope for with this edition of the USWNT. Unfortunately, with the way the squad showed against Portugal, that seems unlikely to happen, as they are now underdogs to Sweden.

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