U.S. Loss to Belgium Has Second-Most World Cup Soccer TV Viewers

The 2-1 loss to Belgium that knocked the American team out of the World Cup drew the second-most viewers for a men’s soccer telecast in U.S. history.

The broadcast two days ago on Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN averaged 16.5 million viewers, the cable network said in a statement. It trailed only the U.S. team’s 2-2 tie on June 22 with Portugal that averaged 18.2 million viewers on a Sunday. Univision's Spanish-language coverage attracted an added 5.1 million viewers.

The ratings data from Nielsen Media Research focuses on homes rather than offices, restaurants, bars and outdoor venues, so the actual number of viewers for the game could be significantly higher than the announced total, said Brad Adgate, director of research at New York-based Horizon Media Inc. The U.S.-Belgium game started at 4 p.m. New York time and finished at about 6:30 p.m.

“There were 25,000 people at Chicago’s Soldier Field, so that number is a lot higher,” Adgate said yesterday in a telephone interview. “I would venture to say, when you add everything up, this could have been just as popular as the Portugal game, perhaps even more so because it was the next round.”

Atlanta, Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington were among the cities that had outdoor viewing parties for the U.S.-Belgium game. City workers also congregated in nearby bars and restaurants to watch the game before traveling home.

After 90 minutes of scoreless play, Belgium scored two goals in a 12-minute span of extra time to open a 2-0 lead and held on to advance to a quarterfinal match against Argentina.

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