After World Cup, US men recede into the background for three and a half years

DOHA, Qatar — Now the United States men’s soccer team takes a back seat to American sports for the next three and a half years.

While the Americans’ four World Cup games averaged 12.2 million viewers on Fox, their 27 games on rated English-language networks from early 2020 through this fall averaged 668,000, according to Nielsen.

The US team averaged 2.45 million during the World Cup on Telemundo, double its average of 1.02 million in 40 games on Spanish-language networks over the three years leading up to the tournament, Nielsen said.

American games have been broadcast on an alphabet soup of networks with start times ranging from 8 a.m. ET to 10 p.m. from places ranging from California to Europe.

“Soccer has become the most baffling sport to watch on television,” said former ESPN president John Skipper, now chief executive of Meadowlark Media.

He cited several networks for the US national team, the Premier League, the German Bundesliga, the Spanish league and the Champions League, some of which draw more viewers than Major League Soccer.

“Can you imagine that European basketball is more popular than the NBA?” said the boss. “We are like Americans used to thinking that we are the world leaders in the sports that we love. And here, we are not the world leaders.”

Football is watched by just a fraction of the NFL’s audience, which said it averaged 17.1 million on TV and digital for the 2021 regular season and drew 42.1 million for the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game alone on Thursday. Thanksgiving Day.

Just 226,000 viewers tuned in to the English-language broadcast of the United States’ final World Cup warm-up match in September, and 159,000 more watched with Spanish commentary. The color-of-the-game play-by-play commentator was 6,000 miles away in a Los Angeles studio and there were no reporters from the American newspapers, even though there were three major organizations online.

Still, the men were viewed more than the US women’s national team, which averaged 295,000 for broadcasts in English and Spanish over the same three-year period, according to Nielsen.

Just like the men, the women’s qualifications skyrocket during their World Cup.

The broadcasts, some sold by the US Soccer Federation and others by regional governing body CONCACAF, were distributed on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, Fox and English-language Fox Sports 1 along with unrated CBS Sports Network and Paramount+. digital. Coverage in Spanish was on Univision, TUDN and UniMás.