One thing has to be understood when talking about television ratings. Ratings are relative. A good number for one league or network would be a horrible number for another. Demos are significant. Who's watching is sometimes more significant than how many are watching. Moreso though, trends are significant. For instance, it's noteworthy that NASCAR's ratings have plummeted in recent years even though the racing series still has numbers that MLB would yearn for on a weekly basis. It's good for the NHL that its numbers are up even though they're light years from the NBA.
Another example of these growing trends is soccer. Soccer's ratings are still not close to the four major sports on most occasions, but the positive signs are there. Last night's World Cup Qualifier on ESPN between the USA and Panama was another step in the right direction. The match was the second highest rated WCQ match or friendly in network history, delivering 1.4 million viewers and a .8 rating. Those numbers fall just short of the US-Mexico game earlier this qualifying cycle that drew an impressive 2.4 million. And considering the game was going up against the NBA Finals, it can be considered an even bigger success.
Again, soccer has a loooong way to go before it reaches even NHL level viewership to keep viewership numbers in perspective. However, if these numbers keep pace, ESPN will see viewership continue to grow throughout World Cup Qualifying and all the way to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and what should be record viewership for soccer in America. At a time when ratings are declining for almost every other sport, it's encouraging for fans of the beautiful game to be trending in the right direction.