Thrilling Portugal Match Is U.S.'s Most-Watched Soccer Game

And Most Watched Non-Football (American) Contest in ESPN History

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Portugal celebrates during the match against the U.S.
Portugal celebrates during the match against the U.S. Credit: ESPN

Portugal's 2-2 draw with the U.S. on a last-second goal yesterday was the most-watched broadcast of a soccer game in U.S. history.

The match broadcast on ESPN was seen in 9.6% of U.S. homes for an average of 18.2 million viewers, the Walt Disney Co. network said in a statement. That total topped the 18 million viewers for the 1999 Women's World Cup final between the U.S. and China on ABC.

The rating also topped the previous high for a men's soccer game in the U.S., which had been a 9.5 for the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil. The 1999 women's final remains the top game in terms of ratings points, with an 11.4. A single ratings point represents 1% of the total number of TV households.

The U.S. was leading 2-1 on goals by Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey when five minutes of stoppage time was added to the clock. Late in the final minute, World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo passed the ball to Portugal substitute Varela, who headed it past U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard to even the score in Manaus, Brazil. The game ended as soon as play was restarted.

Had the U.S. won the match, it would have earned a spot in the next round of the tournament despite predictions to the contrary. Now its fate remains undecided.

World Cup games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have averaged a 2.6 rating through the first 32 matches. That's a 44% increase over ratings in 2010, when the event was held in South Africa.

Yesterday's match was the most-watched non-football broadcast in ESPN's history and it set ratings records in 18 different markets, the network said.

~ Bloomberg News with Ad Age staff ~

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