Ratings for USA-Mexico qualifier shatter records

Brad Guzan


The U.S. Men’s National Team’s scoreless draw vs. Mexico in World Cup qualifying action Tuesday shattered TV ratings records on both networks that showed the match in the United States on Tuesday night.

ESPN announced on Wednesday afternoon that Tuesday’s qualifier doubled the highest previous rating for a World Cup qualifier, registering a 1.4 rating (which translates to about 2.85 million viewers). The previous record for a World Cup qualifier show on an ESPN network was the 2009 World Cup qualifier between the same countries, which drew a 0.7 rating (about 1,191,000 viewers).

The ratings bonanza wasn’t limited to English-language TV. UniMas posted a new network high for audience rating, recording an audience of 4.8 million for the Spanish-language broadcast in the United States. That total is the highest every recorded by the network for any broadcast.

To sum up, about 7.65 million viewers watched USA-Mexico, making it easily the most-viewed World Cup qualifier in American soccer history.

Surprised by the numbers, especially given the 10:30pm ET start time? Think it’s a clear sign that soccer is growing rapidly in the United States? See that number being surpassed when the teams meet again in September?

Share your thoughts below.

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64 Responses to Ratings for USA-Mexico qualifier shatter records

  1. Dinho says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    • alf says:

      I knew that article about the unrest in the US team would help do this. So go thank the guy for writing it….Nah!

      • GW says:

        I’m telling you JK planted that story. Those “sources” were all in on it.

        He set Strauss up.

  2. James says:

    This is awesome, and in the long run much more important than picking up the point in Azteca.

    Hopefully the return leg will feature some more goals and get more people excited.

  3. vik says:

    Do group viewings get counted as 1 viewer? I’d like to think I did my part by watching it alone at home.

    • Taylor says:

      I’ve always wondered this as well. Do they just put down how many TVs the game is being played on, or is there some way to calculate group viewings?

      • kelso says:

        Every TV that has a nielsen box gets counted and then put through some algorithm. There are 20,000 units and they are all in private households. So no, groups aren’t really counted. I would also argue the system isn’t very accurate. I’m surprised it has lasted this long.

        link to splitsider.com

        • Beto says:

          Ya this system is more rediculus then the fifa rankings.. However it is how $ is made and they are doing well on that account.

          • kmac014 says:

            Nielson’s ratings are a calculation. If i’m not mistaken they only need like 2,000 households to get an estimation with 95% confidence

            • edmondo says:

              Yeah, it’s a statistical analysis as long as the sample it is drawn from is fairly random. If it is the actuall number drawn does not have to be that high. I have taken 2 statistics classes when in grad school and I am pretty sure the number is in the single thousands…

              • John says:

                The algorithm definitely accounts for group viewings, but I think mostly based on family size differences. Does anybody know if a variable includes whether it’s a sporting event, the type seen by ten or more people at a time at one person’s house or a bar?

          • keithbabs79 says:

            But not as ridiculous as the AP Fifa rankings

    • Kejsare says:

      Nielson doesn’t track viewing in bars, restaurants, airport terminals, etc. Only home viewing. It is just too difficult logistically to follow, and most definitely a few thousand more can be tacked on to that number.

  4. Raymon says:

    US Soccer and/or ESPN need to put “Brian Strauss” (if that is his real name) on retainer. 7 more WCQ, 7 more articles buddy.

  5. Nathan says:

    Just to make this more awesome, it was a 10:30 PM kickoff for us on the east coast and ratings still blew up.

    • kmac014 says:

      To put it the other way, The US/Mexico game in Mexico was an afternoon game on saturday I believe 4 years ago. This was a better time for ratings even though it was really late on the east coast. But I agree this is great news

      • Mason says:

        Nope. MEX-USA was an afternoon game on a Wednesday last time around. I left work early to go to a bar because the English telecast was on MunDos.

  6. Old School says:

    Onwards and upwards with the popularity of this sport in our country.

    Good things.

  7. 2tone says:

    Good stuff.

    Now the USMNT needs to get some more wins, and score some goals to get people even more excited for the return leg in Columbus against Mexico.

    Great to soccer starting to grab a foot hold. But as always how many of those ESPN viewers. But as always how many were actually Mexico fans instead of USMNT fans on the ESPN channel?

  8. The Imperative Voice says:

    Of course, ESPN shouldn’t outbid beIN because our ratings stink, or some such malarkey. Nobody factors in we play Mexico two out of ten and those are bonanza games. I also think the latent interest in the snow game — and I had non-traditional fans who saw it or at least knew about it — suggests ESPN is underselling the product. You can make almost every game in this round into a Minor Mexico Match because of the implications.

    ESPN had no reason to clarify it but logically we all know this was being shown because ESPN has the full Mexico rights; for our purposes it was an away game and otherwise outside our package (like Honduras away).

    I mean, wouldn’t “lower ratings” make our rights cheaper?

    • chris says:

      Yep lets keep blaming ESPN that’s always fun

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        Perhaps ESPN could defend their failure to secure full US rights if they could find a spot in there among the endless qualifying coverage yesterday. Hmmm you think they paid for that?

        Again, my point is we were really watching the game under rights to Mexico, not our own.

        • chris says:

          Why didnt any other US station pick up the game?????? Oh thats right because bein took their al-jezeera money and overpaid to get their feet wet in soccer coverage in this country. Its as simple as that

      • keithbabs79 says:

        espn3 (watchespn.com now) is by far the worst offender. I don’t have cable, and the past few months have ALWAYS been blacked out online.

    • drew11 says:

      Sportscenter was packed with post game coverage. They may have undersold in the past not last night.

      • David says:

        I realize I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth but that coverage, when not cutting back to the soccer analysts at Azteca, was pretty poor. You could tell the sportcenter hosts were way out of their element and probably not very interested. They stumbled over basic soccer vocab half the time like the difference between the crossbar and the posts and what the game actually was (“that game was a friendly this one was an…..un..friendly?”).

        • David says:

          You could also tell they either had no idea what the early yellow meant to the game or at the very least had no idea how to communicate that effectively. I forget what piss poor and inaccurate metaphor they chose but if they absolutely felt explanation using something they felt was more common knowledge was required then they should have compared it to being a foul away from fouling out in basketball.

    • kelso says:

      I honestly have no idea what point you’re trying to make with most of that.

      Either way, you have to acknowledge that ESPNs production budget for any WCQ games they carry is far superior to any other network doing the same. The team gets much more exposure on ESPN.

      • drew11 says:

        Yep. Just look how many people ESPN flew down to MEX. I would guess Bein will do everything from their studio. If we get lucky they will send a couple PBP guys. No way they roll out a whole production crew like ESPN did yesterday.

        • DCisforboners says:

          I watched the postgame SC last night and I still cringe when I watch their announcers narrate a soccer package. It almost seems like they’re trying to distance themselves from the sport. They act like they’re being forced to call the highlights and they have no idea who would watch such a spectacle. It’s better than in the past where they would openly denigrate a sport that allows, much less celebrates a 0-0 result, but most of the anchors still show open disdain for soccer.

          • drew11 says:

            If you cringed at that wall to wall coverage nothing is good enough for you. Stop being a soccer snob. It was great exposure for USMNT and the sport.

            • David says:

              it was great exposure without question. But if they pulled that level of coverage and attitude (the sportscenter hosts not the production crew) for the Heat’s streak or a postseason football game you can guarantee there would be hell to pay.

          • AG says:

            Yes last night was brutal and they’re better than before but most of the time they use that signature sarcastic/joking tone when talking all sports. It seems even worse when the anchors are clearly unfamiliar with the game. Glad they had the regular soccer studio guy narrating last night’s game and hosting today’s SC morning edition.

            • David says:

              did the morning edition retain a decent amount of coverage of the qualifier? I just assumed they layered it on once that night for the real fans who were still reveling in the result at midnight and then dropped it as soon as Amurican sports fans woke up.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          I wasn’t making a point about relative quality between ESPN and beIN. I was commenting on how this ratings bonanza is at odds with the excuses ESPN supporters threw around when they were outbid. Plus I’m confused how the price was an issue when Mexico home and away would have probably been much more than USA home (and away).

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        ESPN could not outbit beIN for the rights to our away qualifying games. But they somehow afford every game Mexico plays, plus UEFA qualifiers aplenty, plus the production budget you just touted. I am befuddled how they could not then just outbid them for our entire package too. I’d settle for seeing them all, much less improved production for some.

        People will remember the travesty when the next road game comes up we can’t see. They show one Mexico game because they have Mexico rights and people just up and forget.

        • Dimidri says:

          Just as an FYI when Bein initially purchased the away rights for the Hex it did not include the Mexico away game, ESPN had that one months before they purchased Mexico home games.

        • Jason says:

          Just to clarify, TV rights for CONCACAF matches are held by the home federation. As a result, ESPN does not have all of Mexico’s qualifiers, only their home ones and probably the US home match as well. The other road matches for both the US and Mexico need to be bought from the Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, and Panama federations respectively.

          beIN has an ulterior motive for getting these games, market penetration. ESPN does not have that issue. It is not mutually exclusive to believe that ESPN could have outbid beIN AND in doing so would have lost money on the matches. beIN was able to purchase the matches as a “package” because the rights had already been individually bought by the same carrier that provided the pay-per-view for some of the away matches last cycle.

          • Frank says:

            To add to this I remember reading a tweet a few months back I think from Grant Wahl? (don’t really remember) who interviewed someone at ESPN who said something along the lines of “ESPN was never offered the package that Bein agreed to”

  9. Ed says:

    Not to be a party pooper but this probably says more about the popularity of the Mexican national team than the growth of US soccer..

    • Camjam says:

      Does it? I haven’t seen Mexico NT’s popularity be anything but skyhigh for about 30 years. It’s much more logical to assume that growth is coming from the market that didn’t already have overwhelming popularity (US soccer fans) and which just hit the new record for viewers on a popular American sports channel.

  10. Dave says:

    One thing that helped the TV ratings: there isn’t much else going on in the American sports world right now. Just basketball and hockey. No football and no baseball. That makes a huge difference.

  11. John.q says:

    Great news although I wish there were some goals to go with it for the lay fan. A 1-1 draw would’ve been good.

  12. Raymon says:

    Photo caption:

    Brad Guzan: “Gonzo, if you jump this high, Chicharito cant reach it”

  13. Gnarls says:

    That’s more than 2% of the US population. That’s ridiculously good for any television event, save for the Super Bowl and a few other marquee events.

  14. Beto says:

    The combined english+spanish total would be on par with a big sunday nfl game or an election night coverage while the english only is on par with most ncaa basketball and football games.

    I think both language broadcasts were excelent and drew fans of both teams. The rivalry is must see tv, especially in Azteca. Hopefully it gets bigger and bigger.

  15. Sean says:

    I delayed starting BioShock Infinite to watch this. Go USA!

  16. bottlcaps says:

    ESPN put in a considerable amount of on channel and cross channel publicity. This is something they have failed to do with their MLS properties. NBC, has done a better job at publicity and hype. I believe if this were done on NBC/NBCsports, the ratings would have been around 10-20 percent better.

    Still I’m glad that ESPN got the ratings, maybe some added hype for all the rematches will encourage them to buy the foreign rights for the games (they do not buy the rights for the other CA teams as they ask too much for ESPN) and put them on a tier one cable/satellite channel.

    Was the broadcast from Mexico on ESPN a separate purchase by ESPN, or was it wrapped up in the recent purchase by ESPN, of the Liga MX broadcasts?

    • WG says:

      ESPN has had the domestic English language rights for El Tri for some time, so the broadcast of LIGA MX is a separate, but not necessarily unrelated, deal.

  17. THomas says:

    I can’t even begin to guess what world cup 2014 will bring given the prime time game times. I think espn wants us to make it more than any fan.

  18. ChitownTino says:

    That Brian Strauss dude that wrote the article just got fired by sporting news.

  19. Eric says:

    Those are some stellar ratings. Great news for US Soccer!

  20. whoop-whoop says:

    Brian Straus quoted an un-named former USMNT coach as saying that the 4.8 million who watched on Spanish language networks should not be counted… that if we are really developing soccer fans in this country then we should be able to post these numbers with people born here.

    Klinsy responded by saying that the goals count and money spends just the same no matter where the shooter or viewer was born. And added… hey anonymous guy… the 1980s called, it wants your sport-coat and your stale world-view back.

  21. Samurai says:

    Simple, alot more Mexicans are in the United States watching their team play.

  22. big guy says:

    We have a long way to go considering the average rating for the NFL is 11.4. Compare that with soccers 1.4 rating and you can see that is pretty small. That is awesome that we shattered a record and all, but when you look at the comparison, we have a lot of growth to do. Im not hating on soccer or anything cause ppl who know me know how much I love soccer.

    • DCUnitedWillRiseAgain says:

      The 1.4 rating was only for the ESPN broadcast. The UniMas broadcast almost doubled the number of viewers meaning the overall rating would be more like a 4? Still not NFL, but pretty good nonetheless.

  23. OB Rick says:

    The analyst Ramos was so pro-Mexico that it made me sick. Stupid comment about Mexico being way better then the USA. They are so much better with a 0-1-2 record against us in the last three games.

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