Team USA's World Cup Ratings & Ticket Demand Exemplifying Growth of Soccer in America

After teetering on the brink of collapse just about a decade ago, Major League Soccer has become the fastest growing sports league in America with league-wide attendance nearly doubling in just the past five years alone. While soccer may never reach the lucrative TV deals of the other major American sports leagues, undoubtedly, the sport has finally cemented itself in the consciousness of the American public. Exemplifying the popularity and growth of soccer in America, Sunday's USA-Portugal World Cup match was the single most-viewed soccer match in American history; and if American buoyed ticket demand is any indication, the record could be short lived by the time Thursday's USA-Germany match rolls around.

World Cup 2014 tickets for the USA-Portugal game closed at an average of $395.16 on the secondary market, making it one of the more expensive games of the Group Play round, particularly amongst games not involving a South American squad. With even more on the line for team USA when they face Germany on Thursday, American demand has significantly increased prices, by over 70%, to where they now check in at an average of $673.75 with very limited supply available. Currently, Thursday's match is the fourth most expensive match of the Group Play stage not involving a South American team. At the peak price of $962.84 on June 18, it was actually at the top of that list, but prices have since receded a bit. Even the least expensive ticket currently available, which carries a price tag of $450, is more expensive than the average ticket for Sunday's match against Portugal.

Below is a video from The Postgame with perspective on soccer fandom in the US vs. other countries:

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The match with Portugal, which ended in a 2-2 draw, averaged viewership of 18,220,000 viewers on the ESPN telecast, with a peak of 22,961,000. Excluding NFL and college football telecasts, it was ESPN's most-viewed program ever. Overall, ESPN's 2014 World Cup coverage has substantially increased viewership over 2010 and 2006. According to a recent ESPN press release, the ABC family of networks, including ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2, has averaged 4,273,000 viewers through the first 32 matches. Additionally, the networks have shown double-digit growth in key demographics. For more evidence of the growth in popularity, look no further than MLS teams like the Sounders Schedule or Timbers Schedule who sell out games and have a fan base that you would expect to see in Europe.

After winning their group in 2010, expectations were high for the United States this time around. Disappointment abounded when USA was placed in the “Group of Death,” what many consider to be the toughest group in this year's World Cup. Faced with the prospects of playing Germany, among the World Cup favorites, Portugal, always a tough squad, and arch-nemesis Ghana, which eliminated the U.S. in the Round of 16 in 2010, it was tough to see how the United States could build upon the success of 2010. Of course, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann came out and proclaimed that the “reason they call it the Group of Death is because we're in it, too.” With a win or draw on Thursday, the United States is guaranteed to advance to the knockout stage. With a loss, the United States still faces fairly good odds in the goal differential tiebreaker, as they are up two on Ghana and four on Portugal. Given the ticket demand and television ratings of team USA's World Cup run thus far, a deeper run could continue to have a tremendous impact on the growth of the game in America and ticket prices for later U.S. World Cup matches.


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