The World Cup: As Popular In The U.S. As The World Series?

World Cup viewership during day = World Series in primetime

Yesterday, Ken pointed out that more Americans are following the World Cup than live in the United Kingdom, a great stat to refute the notion that Americans don’t care about soccer. I’d like to add to that a fun little stat from the New York Times’ Sports Business column — as many Americans watched the USA v. Ghana Round of 16 match as watched the average game in the last World Series:

For the ESPN empire and Univision, any questions about the return on their investment in the World Cup are being answered by viewers. On Saturday, the United States’ loss to Ghana was seen by 14.9 million on ABC — an American record for the tournament — and an additional 4.5 million on Univision. That’s 19.4 million viewers for a Round of 16 game on a Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Eastern — the same number that Fox averaged over six prime-time games for last year’s World Series.

In fact, “through 52 games, ESPN’s average viewership is up 58 percent to 2.86 million; Univision’s is 2.1 million, up nearly 9 percent. Figure, then, that about five million are watching the games, comparable to the N.B.A. playoffs, excluding the finals, and the Stanley Cup finals.” The American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz submits that this means soccer’s time is here:

What intricate argument can be brought against these numbers? Tom Scocca blames Fox for making baseball boring to watch, but what they’ve done — playing games at night, have a lot of commercials, etc. — have been characteristic of baseball for a long time. If you care about baseball, you’re going to watch the World Series whether or not the games are long. Why not just admit it, soccer critics: Futbol is coming of age in America.

There’s little doubt in my mind that the World Series had been made (even more) mind-numbingly boring by the demands of television, which the structure of soccer tends to confound (no stoppages, so no commercials, for instance). In the localities for the teams involved, though, I’m willing to bet that the World Series isn’t lacking for viewers.

But still, this, combined with Ken’s point from yesterday, shows that there’s a sizable U.S. audience following the tournament, despite what the soccer haters say. And that’s a great thing for the future of the sport in America.

Postmortem: What Happened To Africa?

With just one day left in group play, I think it’s an appropriate time to ask what on Earth happened to Africa in this tournament? Unless the Ivory Coast manages to score a touchdown against North Korea tomorrow, just one African team out of six will make it through to the second round. And even that team — the U.S.’s second round opponent, Ghana — did it in thoroughly unimpressive fashion.

This was supposed to be the tournament where Africa made a real mark. Home soil, fan support, and teams that on paper looked strong all led to the impression that, while they likely wouldn’t win the thing, a few African teams would make a real run.

Theories abound for why Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, South Africa, and (probably) Ivory Coast will be watching the second round. They range from lack of soccer infrastructure to players having an “individual mentality rather a team mentality.”

I’d like to throw into the mix their lack of tactical acumen. And that doesn’t fall on the players shoulders, but on those of the coaches. Continue reading

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