Ask most Americans to name the biggest sports competitions on US airwaves. They’ll likely name the Super Bowl, World Series, March Madness and NBA Finals as the most popular. But according to the latest analysis from FOX Sports head of strategy and analytics, Americans watched more World Cup than March Madness in 2022.

FOX Sports strategy and analytics guru Michael Mulvihill outlined some impressive numbers relating to 2022 World Cup viewership in a Twitter thread. Among the revelations was that Americans watched the World Cup more than March Madness – the annual college basketball tournament that captivates sports fans each spring.

More World Cup than March Madness? ‘Tis true

“Across English and Spanish networks, Americans spent more time this year watching the World Cup than watching March Madness,” Mulvihill said. “That’s not to diminish March Madness, but to show that the World Cup now more than holds its own compared to foundational events in the US sports.”

The 2022 tournament in Qatar aired in the US on FOX in English plus Telemundo and Peacock in Spanish, and it was a record breaker. For example, the 2022 World Cup Final was the most-watched men’s World Cup game ever on English-language television in the United States.

The Argentina-France final match would turn out to attract over 26 million total viewers in both English and Spanish, just short of the 27.3 million that tuned in for the 2014 final, making it the second-most watched game in US TV history.

The colossal domestic viewing figures across TV and streaming for the 2022 World Cup leave little doubt that soccer is a bonafide part of American culture. Despite an unusual time of year for the tournament and congested group stage match days with games starting at 5AM Eastern Time, the average English language viewership was up 30% over 2018.

The return of the United States to the World Cup surely helped boost ratings for FOX this time around compared to 2018. The fact that perhaps the biggest name in the game, Lionel Messi, advanced all the way and ended up winning the final, probably didn’t hurt in drawing in additional viewers either. But even after the USMNT was eliminated by the Netherlands in the round of 16, numbers stayed strong, with a 48% uptick in viewership from the end of the quarterfinals thru the final.

Mulvihill concluded, “Our attention now turns to the 2023 WWC, the 2024 Euros and the 2026 MWC in North America, which will obliterate all US soccer viewing records. It’s a formidable lineup. Being the leader in the world’s top tournaments is clearly an enviable place to be.”

Image credit: Imago