The U.S. women's national team is basking in the glow of the new FIFA World Cup trophy they claimed with an emphatic 5-2 win over Japan on Sunday. Led by Carli Lloyd's three first-half goals, the win touched off celebrations and drew a huge TV audience, according to Fox.
"It is the highest metered market rating ever for a soccer game in the U.S. on a single network," the company says.
Update at 12 noon ET: More Than 20 Million Viewers
While some 17 million American viewers tuned in to the 7 p.m. ET start of Sunday's game, that number quickly grew to 21.86 million an hour later — and reached 22.86 million at 8:30 p.m. ET, according to preliminary data from industry website TV Media Insights.
Those figures are comparable to the 2014 World Series' Game 7, which attracted 23.5 million viewers — far more than any other game of the 2014 series.
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Hosted by Canada, the tournament has brought a succession of ratings wins for Fox, which aired games on its main channel as well as Fox Sports 1. Along the way, the women's game has drawn compliments for lacking the elaborate (and action-slowing) histrionics elite men display as they attempt to draw referees' calls. It's also been defended by comedian Amy Poehler, who urged Americans to support the U.S. team.
Sunday night's game shattered viewing records for soccer in the U.S. — played by men or women — according to preliminary numbers Fox released Monday morning.
The final drew "a prodigious 15.2/27 metered market household rating/share" from 7-9 p.m. ET, Fox says, citing data from the Nielsen ratings service. The network adds that the audience "peaked at 18.3/31 from 8:45-9:00 p.m. ET," as more Americans tuned in to watch the celebrations in Vancouver.
As a comparison, consider that the Golden State Warriors' recent title-clinching Game 6 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals earned a 15.9 overnight rating. That figure was hailed as a Game 6 record for ABC in a Finals series that drew the highest average numbers since the Michael Jordan era.
Compared to earlier soccer benchmarks, Fox says Sunday night's game eclipsed "the previous mark set for the Women's World Cup final between the USA and China in 1999 on ABC (13.3 mm rating)."
The figures also blew past the 8.6 mm rating earned by the 2011 Women's World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan; that game was broadcast on ESPN.
More complete national data for Sunday night's game will emerge later Monday; for now, Fox says the top five local markets were:
1. Kansas City (20.6/35)
2. St. Louis (20.5/33)
3. San Diego (19.5/41)
4. Denver (19.4/36)
5. Austin (19.1/37)
TV Media Insights reports that "Fox, overall, beat the Big 3 nets combined by 52 percent in the overnights," while also noting that "results for any live sporting event are approximate."
Fox Sports 1 will air an hourlong special at 1 p.m. ET Monday, when the 23-player national team and its coach, Jill Ellis, will unveil their new jerseys featuring three stars (denoting three World Cup titles).
Despite the excitement around this team and its new title, sports pundits noted that the prize payout for the women's tournament is nowhere near the level of the men's World Cup. The women's championship team won $2 million — a fraction of what the men's winners get.
For perspective: After Germany won the men's World Cup last summer, the team was awarded $35 million — and each player also earned a bonus of more than $400,000 from their national sporting association, according to ESPN FC.
Shortly after Sunday's resounding victory, President Obama tweeted his congratulations along with an invitation for the team to come visit.
Lloyd responded, "Thank you Mr. President! See you very soon at the White House!!"
Lloyd won the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament; her teammate Hope Solo was named the best goalkeeper. And that gave U.S. Soccer an idea for the Treasury's plans to feature a woman on America's paper currency.