The U.S. wound up on the wrong end of penalty kicks in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup final against Japan on Sunday, but ESPN put nearly 13.5 million viewers in the back of its net, the worldwide leader's most ever for a soccer match.
ESPN averaged a 7.4 national rating, 8.58 million households and 13.46 million watchers with its July 17 coverage of Japan's PK shootout triumph, according to Nielsen data. It was the sixth-largest cablecast of 2011, according to ESPN officials.
The exciting contest, in which the U.S. squandered a pair of one-goal leads, supplanted the U.S.-Algeria men's match from the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa as ESPN's top match, almost doubling that game's 4.0 rating and 4.58 million households. The women's contest scored a 185% advance from the 6.16 million who witnessed U.S.-Algeria.
Yesterday's women's final now stands as the sixth-most-watched soccer match in U.S. history behind: the 17.98 million for U.S.-China in the 1999 WWC Cup final, and Brandi Chastain's jersey-baring moment, on July 10 of that year; the 15.9 million for the 2010 WC final in which Spain topped The Netherlands; the 15.2 million who watched Ghana oust the U.S. in the 2010 WC round of 16; the 14.5 million who saw Brazil defeat Italy on PKs in the 1994 WC final in the U.S.; and Brazil beating the U.S. in the 1994 WC round of 16 match, which drew 13.7 million.
All of those matches were televised by ABC.