With a failed attempt to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and some poor efforts this year (despite another Gold Cup win), ratings for the U.S. Men’s National Team were off 15% compared to 2016. And without the U.S. involved in the World Cup next year, it doesn’t bode well for Fox/FS1 when it airs the event from Russia.
Overall, there were 19 USMNT games this year on beIN Sports, ESPN/ESPN2, and Fox/FS1/FXX. They averaged an audience of 819,842 viewers, down from an average of 965,842 in 2016. One factor in the strong 2016 viewership was the Copa America Centenario, which did well for Fox/FS1 as the USMNT progressed to the semifinals.
But the U.S. did play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, and four of the USMNT’s matches in that tournament averaged over one million viewers.
These numbers do not include viewership on the Spanish language networks of Telemundo/Universo and Univision/Univision Deportes.
beIN Sports, which has a much smaller distribution footprint than ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, FS1, and FXX, drew lower viewership for its three World Cup Qualifiers on the road. beIN has the rights to CONCACAF WC qualifiers that are played outside of Mexico and the United States.
ESPN and Fox share the contract for home USMNT friendly and World Cup Qualifier matches. Fox had the exclusive contract for the Gold Cup.
The highest viewership this year was a World Cup Qualifier on June 11 between Mexico and the US on FS1, which drew 2.052 million viewers. The lowest was an international friendly between Portugal and the US on November 14, which was played one month after the Americans failed to qualify for the World Cup and had an average viewership of just 169,000 on FS1.
World Soccer Talk compiled the numbers for this year’s USMNT games and here are the top five most-watched matches, four of which came from the Gold Cup:
- World Cup Qualifier: Mexico vs. United States (6/11) — FS1 (2,052,000 viewers)
- Gold Cup: United States vs. Jamaica (7/26) — FS1 (1,772,000 viewers)
- Gold Cup: United States vs. Panama (7/8) — Fox (1,212,000 viewers)
- Gold Cup: United States vs. Costa Rica (7/22) — FS1 (1,094,000 viewers)
- Gold Cup: United States vs. El Salvador (7/19) — FS1 (1,050,000 viewers)
And the least watched, three of which aired on beIN:
- World Cup Qualifier: Trinidad & Tobago vs. United States (10/10) — beIN Sports (463,000)
- International Friendly: United States vs. Jamaica (2/3) — FS1 (338,000)
- World Cup Qualifier: Panama vs. United States (3/28) — beIN Sports (281,000)
- World Cup Qualifier: Honduras vs. United States (9/5) — beIN Sports (256,000)
- International Friendly: Portugal vs. United States (11/14) — FS1 (169,000)
Next year will consist of various meaningless friendly matches for the United States, and the networks will likely be in for another drop.