In addition to sponsorships and attendance, one of the major ways to gauge the popularity of any sporting event or league in this country is the TV ratings. Soccer is no different. For the US Men’s National Team, TV ratings have been good for the most part for the last several years. However, the trend this year is pointing downward. And with the US failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia next summer, that trend looks set to continue until at least the summer of 2019.
In 2017, the average viewership for the men’s national team on English language broadcasts was 819,842 viewers per game, down 15% from 965,842 in 2016 (though it is up 12% compared to the average of 728,550 in 2015). The most obvious reason the viewership is down is probably the same reason that attendance was down slightly as well: no Copa America this year. The Copa America Centenario in 2016 was a huge boost both in the stadiums and on the networks. All six Copa America games the US played in last year drew over 1 million viewers (with three of those six drawing over 2 million and one of those three drawing over 3 million). While the viewership for the US at the Gold Cup this summer was nothing to sneeze at, it was bound to be down from last summer because teams like Martinique and Nicaragua don’t move the needle as much as Colombia and Argentina. But it’s a good sign that four of the six Gold Cup games drew over 1 million viewers and three of the eight World Cup Qualifiers drew over 1 million viewers (including the famous draw in Mexico that drew over 2 million viewers).
That’s the good news. The bad news is that while there were several TV viewing figures that were very good, there were also plenty that were not. Three of the away qualifiers aired on beIN SPORTS, a network that despite being in over 22 million homes in America, cannot generate significant viewing numbers for games featuring the USA. However, the least watched game of the year aired on FS1. But really, who wants to watch a meaningless friendly while people are still enraged at the US Soccer Federation for failing to qualify for the biggest sporting event in the world?
Here are the English language viewing figures for the USMNT in 2017: