Soccer fans bend for Beckham

Total viewer number for ESPN near 1.5 million

David Beckham, hobbled slightly by a sore ankle, played only 16 minutes in his first U.S. match as a member of the L.A. Galaxy Saturday night at 9, but more people watched the game on ESPN than any other Major League Soccer game in the cabler’s history.

The total viewer number was 1.468 million for the match between the Galaxy and Chelsea FC, which easily beat the previous record on ESPN of 1.09 million set on April 4, 1996, a battle between D.C. United and the San Jose Clash.

ESPN said Saturday’s live cablecast ended up the highest-rated program for the night among ad-supported cable networks for men 18 to 49 and men 25-54.

The Galaxy has six Thursday-night matches scheduled between Aug. 9 and Oct. 18; ESPN2 will carry all of them.

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