European Championship Soccer Ratings Rise 63% on U.S. Television

U.S. television ratings for soccer’s European Championship are up by 63 percent from four years ago, with quarterfinals rising by 31 percent, according to ESPN.

The June 21-24 quarterfinal games averaged 1.9 million viewers this year, compared to 1.1 million viewers for Euro 2008, the Walt Disney Co. network said in a statement.

The increased viewership follows ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup. Spain’s win against the Netherlands in the final two years ago drew 15.5 million viewers, the most-watched men’s soccer match in U.S. history.

“There’s no question that interest in soccer is growing in the U.S.,” Rick Gentile, a sports management instructor at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, and a former senior vice president at CBS Sports, said today in a telephone interview. “The last World Cup did a great job of spurring interest. In the U.S., we never paid attention to it before. ‘It’s the European Championship, what do we care?’ Obviously, now we do.”

The semifinals begin today, with Portugal playing Spain. Italy meets Germany tomorrow, with the championship on July 1.

The most-watched quarterfinal match was the June 24 game in which Italy beat England 4-2 on penalty kicks after the teams tied the match in Kiev 0-0 after 120 minutes. The game, which drew 2.97 million viewers, was the sixth time in seven occasions that England lost a shootout at a European Championship or World Cup.

This year’s games, being played in Poland and Ukraine, have drawn an average of 1.1 million viewers for the first 28 group stage and quarterfinal matches, up from an average of 703,000 viewers in 2008, ESPN said.

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