World Cup 2014: England may be on their way home, but the party is just beginning for the USA as they embrace 'soccer'
The 2-2 draw with Portugal saw record figures for a football match in the US and the signs show it's only going to get better
Wednesday 25 June 2014
England have now officially bowed out of the World Cup having failed to make it through Group D, but for our American cousins across the pond, the party has only just started.
With the US national team requiring only a draw against Germany to make it through to the last 16 of the competition, support in the US appears to be hitting levels that have never been seen before for football or ‘soccer’.
Viewing figures from the US show that a record 25 million people watched the USA draw 2-2 with Portugal. Sports network ESPN boasted over 18m people watched it on their channel, up from 11m people during the match against Ghana. To put this into context, the BBC reported that just over 15m individuals in the UK watched England’s first group game against Italy.
Soccer is rapidly starting to secure itself in and amongst Americas most watched sports as viewing figures surpassed those of basketball and American football. The NBA finals could only manage an average of 15.5m viewers and the NFL’s average weekly viewership last season was just over 17m people.
US success at the World Cup has encouraged enormous viewing parties across the country, spawning scenes of jubilation and euphoria that would match Spain’s World Cup winning celebrations.
One of the largest was in Chicago where an estimated 20,000 people gathered in Balbo Avenue Park to witness Portugal draw with the US. The crowd had become so large that half an hour before the game even started, fans were barred from entering amidst safety concerns.
With even more numbers expected for Thursday’s game against Germany and to help deal with the extra capacity, the event has been moved to Grant Park, a venue known for its hosting of Chicago Bulls championship parties.
The US ‘soccer’ following is not just exclusive to the US itself. According to FIFA, figures have shown that outside of Brazil, US soccer fans are the highest ticket purchasers throughout the World Cup, claiming nearly 200,000 seats across the country.
‘The beautiful game’ in America is not just being watched, but also talked about. According to Twitter, there were 8m tweets about the Portugal game during the course of the match.
Despite the positive figures showing the increased interest, sustainability after the World Cup is key if ‘soccer’ is to keep its place as a keenly followed American sport as US sports fans in general are renowned for getting behind ‘big events’.
An example of this would be the previous record for the top viewed soccer match in the US where just under 18 million people watched the United States take on China in the 1999 Women's World Cup final.
These figures also appear low when they are compared to the potential viewership a US sporting event can draw in, with the NFL’s Super Bowl annually being watched by over 100 million people in the States alone.
With players such as midfielder Michael Bradley acknowledging that the support in Brazil and in the US is helping the team progress, this World Cup could prove to be the start of something good for ‘soccer’ in the America.
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