The 2014 FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina drew an audience of 26.5 million for ABC (DIS) and Univision combined on Sunday, a new high for soccer in this country. ABC drew an average audience of 17.3 million according to the network, making it the second most-watched game of the tournament for ESPN/ABC, behind the U.S. team’s stage match with Portugal. Univision says it averaged 9.2 million viewers—just behind the Spanish-language U.S. telecast record of 10.4 million set by the Mexico vs. Netherlands match. It’s a strong, yet bittersweet, finish for the two networks, which lost out in the bidding to carry the next two World Cups.
Soccer now sits above the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, golf, Nascar, college football, and college basketball in terms of peak audience over the past year. The World Cup lags only the most-viewed events from the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games—and many, many National Football League games, including these 15 contests during the 2013 regular season. (Viewer averages are for all games in a network time slot. Most viewers watched the matchup shown.)
1. Oakland Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys, Nov. 28 (31.7 million viewers): Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo caught a virus before this Thanksgiving day game, but he still throws a pedestrian 225 yards for the team’s victory.
2. Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers, Sept. 8 (28.5 million): The 49ers win is a big day for dead-ball penalties and mistakenly replayed downs.
3. Green Bay Packer vs. Detroit Lions, Nov. 28 (28.3 million): Detroit does not hold a parade after the Lions rout the Packers, 40-10.
4. Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys, Oct. 6 (28.3 million): America holds its breath while Matt Prater converts a 28-yard field goal as time expires to seal the Broncos victory.
5. Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs, Dec. 1 (28.1 million): Denver’s Montee Ball rushes for a team-best 45 yards.
6. Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants, Nov. 24 (27.9 million): Tony Romo, a few days from his fateful Thanksgiving Day virus, passes for 234 yards in a further Dallas win.
7. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Dec. 15 (27.8 million): Tony Romo throws (another) fourth-quarter interception, and the Packers win.
8. Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers, Dec. 8 (27.6 million): 49ers place kicker Phil Dawson flawlessly converts four field goal attempts.
9. Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys, Dec. 29 (27.4 million): Kyle Orton, filling in for the injured Tony Romo, throws for 358 yards and two interceptions in a Cowboys defeat.
10. Philadelphia Eagles vs. Denver Broncos, Sept. 29 (27 million): The Broncos put in back-up quarterback Brock Osweiler during the fourth quarter of their 52-20 rout of the Eagles.
11. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos, Nov. 17 (26.9 million): Lindsey Vonn and Tiger Woods are among the crowd watching the Broncos win.
12. Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts, Oct. 20 (26.9 million): In his first game since he left Indianapolis, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws three interceptions and suffers his first loss of the season.
13. San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints, Nov. 17 (26.9 million): More Phil Dawson perfection for the 49ers; he’s two-for-two on field goals, but it’s not enough to top the Saints.
14. New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots, Oct. 13 (26.7 million): Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a game-winning touchdown with five seconds left. Kidding aside, it’s a pretty good example of why so many people watch the NFL.
15. Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots, Nov. 24 (26.5 million): The Broncos lose after back-up cornerback Tony Carter accidentally runs into a punt.