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World Cup Finals averaged nearly 26 million viewers on Fox, Telemundo and streaming

The 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup started with controversy. The selection of Qatar, in 2010, a small Arab country, with no soccer legacy was a curious selection. As it turned out, FIFA members being bribed to vote for Qatar, darkening the governing body and the event. There were several other controversies as well; including the treatment and reported death of thousands of migrant workers primarily from South Asia who built the much-needed infrastructure to host the tournament. Also, the treatment of the LGBTQ community and alcohol consumption were scrutinized.

After a number of upsets and penalty kick shootouts, the four-week, 32-team, 64-game tournament ended with what has been called the greatest World Cup game final ever played, as Argentina defeated France in a penalty kick shootout. In defeating the defending champions, Argentina captured its third World Cup title and first since 1986. Only Brazil at 5, and Germany and Italy with 4 each, have captured more titles. As with most prominent sporting events, the World Cup had several compelling storylines, none greater than Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

Playing in his fifth and last World Cup, the 35-year Messi helped to solidify himself as soccer’s greatest player. This year Messi became the first male, playing in the same World Cup, to score in all five rounds; the Group Stage, Round of 16, Quarterfinal, Semifinal and Final. In his World Cup career, Messi has set the new standard for games played (26), minutes played (2,314) and goals/assists (20). In addition, Messi also became the first player to win two Golden Balls (as best player).

In the final game Messi scored two of Argentina’s three goals, Kylian Mbappé scored all three goals for France. Mbappé led all goal scorers with eight, the most scored by a player in a single World Cup in twenty years, in winning the Golden Boot. At the age of 23, Mbappé has already played in two World Cup finals with France winning in 2018.

The Men’s World Cup is the most popular sporting event on the planet with a projected five billion people globally watching some part of the month-long tournament. In the U.S., Fox Sports televised the games in English and Telemundo Deportes in Spanish. The games were also live streamed on Tubi, Peacock, fuboTV among other digital platforms.

The epic World Cup final averaged nearly 26 million viewers in the U.S. The live game began at 10 a.m. (ET) and averaged 16.8 million viewers including streaming on Fox. Telemundo’s live coverage generated an average audience of approximately 9 million viewers including streaming. The World Cup final was the most streamed (English and Spanish language) soccer match to date in the U.S. (The 2022 ratings included out-of-home audiences including bars, offices and other venues which went unmeasured in previous World Cups.)

By comparison, the 2018 World Cup final averaged 17.8 million on Fox/Telemundo, the least watched since 2002. The 2014 finale from Brazil (Germany defeated Argentina) on ABC/Univision averaged a record high 27.3 million viewers. The 2010 World Cup final (Spain defeated Netherlands) from South Africa aired on ABC/Univision and averaged 24.7 million viewers. The 2006 final, from Germany (Italy defeated France), had a combined 18.9 million on ABC/Univision.

After failing to qualify in the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. returned in 2022. The U.S. squad had an average age of 25 years, the youngest of all 32 teams. In total, TeamTISI -7.1% USA played four matches, advancing from the three-game Group Stage before losing in the knockout round.

On Fox, the highest rated game with Team USA was the second match in the Group Stage against England. The Fox broadcast averaged 15.4 million viewers with Telemundo averaging an additional 4.6 million viewers. For a total of 20 million viewers. Boosting ratings was the game was scheduled on “Black Friday” when many people are taking a long Holiday weekend, with a start time of 2 p.m. (ET). The U.S. and England tied 0-0.

(The Black Friday match was part of a weekend long live sports extravaganza on Fox, which they had promoted to advertisers at their upfront presentation last May. On Thanksgiving afternoon, Fox televised an NFL contest between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. The game averaged 42 million viewers, making it the most watched regular season NFL game of all-time. On Saturday afternoon, during college football’s “rivalry weekend”, the Fox telecast of Michigan and Ohio State, both undefeated, averaged 17 million viewers, the most watched regular season college football game since 2011.)

Team USA’s first match in the Group Stage, played on a Monday morning, versus Wales. The game averaged 11.7 million viewers, Fox had an average audience of 8.3 million viewers and Telemundo had 3.4 million viewers. The game resulted in a 1-1 tie. The third and final Group Stage game was against Iran and played on a Tuesday afternoon. The game averaged 12 million viewers on Fox with another 3.5 million viewers on Telemundo, Peacock and other digital platforms for a combined 15.5 million viewers. With the U.S. winning 1-0, the team advanced to the Round of 16 facing the Netherlands.

The U.S.-Netherlands Round of 16 matchup played on a Saturday morning, averaged 12.9 million viewers on Fox including digital viewing. Telemundo averaged 3.6 million viewers including digital audiences. For a combined 16.5 million viewers. The Netherlands defeated the U.S. 3-1 eliminating them from the World Cup.

Besides the World Cup final which averaged nine million viewers, Telemundo’s other top-rated telecast was on the Saturday afternoon after Thanksgiving when Argentina defeated Mexico. The Group Stage game (a must win for Argentina), also averaged nine million viewers on Telemundo, Peacock and across other digital platforms.

With the uptick in viewers, the ratings of future World Cup matches look strong. Next Summer will be the women’s World Cup from Australia and New Zealand. Despite a challenging time difference, the USWNT are the defending two-time champs. The 2026 Men’s World Cup should set a ratings record, with the games in North America and a young but experienced U.S. squad. Forbes

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