America is ready to catch World Cup fever early in 2014.

ESPN’s opening broadcast of the Brazil-hosted tournament, between the host nation and Croatia, drew a 3.2 overnight rating. That’s up 52% from the South Africa-Mexico opener in 2010 (which drew a 2.1 overnight rating). ESPN has only been keeping overnight figures since 1998, but that marks the best overnight rating ever for the opening match on ESPN.

The match, which was marred by controversy, drew higher ratings than either of NBCSN’s telecasts of the Stanley Cup Final.

The game also nearly topped 10 million total viewers. Univision’s Spanish-language telecast drew 5.1 million, while ESPN hit with a cool 4.4 million. For the non-math majors, that equals a cool 9.9 million viewers for the opening match.

Locally, you always wonder what markets are big for international soccer. The top 10 for ESPN were Washington (5.1), Boston (5.0), Miami (4.7), Los Angeles (4.6), New York (4.5), San Francisco (4.3), Hartford (4.3), Providence (3.9), Austin (3.9) and Orlando (3.8). A lot of very large cities with soccer cultures and big immigrant populations.

A big rating for the opening match is a good sign for the rest of the tournament, which is mostly airing when Americans on the east coast can watch. A 4 p.m. ET Thursday match getting a large audience is certainly a good sign. Welcome to another month of World Cup fever.


About Steve Lepore

Steve Lepore is a writer for Bloguin and a correspondent for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.