The Women’s World Cup final on Fox between the U.S. and Japan drew a record U.S. audience for a soccer game, beating both baseball’s World Series and the NBA finals.
The total of 25.4 million viewers surpassed the previous record for a soccer match, when 18.2 million tuned in to see the U.S. men’s soccer team play Portugal during last year’s World Cup, the Fox network said Monday in a statement.
The tally puts women’s soccer in a league previously owned by men’s sports and highlights Fox’s foresight in gaining the rights through 2026. The National Basketball Association finale on ABC last month attracted 23.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen data, while last year’s game seven of Major League Baseball’s World Series on Fox attracted 23.5 million.
“This just may be a watershed moment for fan excitement and media coverage of women’s sports,” Michael Alan Messner, a professor of sociology and gender studies at the University of Southern California, said in an e-mailed statement.
The U.S. beat Japan 5-2 on Sunday, led by three goals from midfielder Carli Lloyd. It was the third time the U.S. women’s team has won the tournament, and the first time since 1999. Sunday’s game in Vancouver was a rematch of the 2011 final held in Frankfurt, and the rating was 77 percent better than the 8.6 ESPN drew for the previous meeting, which Japan won on penalty kicks.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup has provided a much-needed ratings lift for Fox, which has lost a fifth of its viewers in the TV season that began in September. Fox began airing the tournament in prime time on June 12.
An additional 1.3 million viewers watched the U.S. broadcast of the match on Telemundo, the Spanish-language broadcaster owned by Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal. The U.S. has 116.4 million TV households, according to Nielsen.
The popularity of the tournament underscores the growing audience for soccer in the U.S., especially among young viewers and women. The Fox network, part of 21st Century Fox Inc., has made coverage of the Women’s World Cup a flagship summer event, attracting sponsors like Fiat and Samsung, and delivering record audiences, including a doubling of the female audience compared with four years ago.
The highest major-market soccer rating for a men’s game in the U.S., a 9.1 on ESPN, came during last year’s World Cup as the American men earned a 2-2 draw with Portugal during the group stage. The rating for Sunday’s game peaked at more than twice that, an 18.3, as the game concluded and the American women began their celebration.