World Cup ratings skyrocket for USA games

Wednesday’s USA-Algeria World Cup game — featuring that late winning goal by Landon Donovan — averaged 8.6 million viewers between ESPN and Univision, making it the second-most watched USA game so far (to be fair, the USA-England match was run on ABC).

According to Nielsen, the average U.S. TV audience for the first three games played by Team USA are up 68% in 2010 vs. the 2006 World Cup.

All three games have averaged 11.1 million viewers via both English-lingo and Spanish language nets. That’s up from 6.6 million at this point in 2006.

Because that USA-England match aired on ABC, the USA-Algeria faceoff repped ESPN’s highest-rated and most-watched soccer game in its history — averaging 6.2 million viewers. The game was also ESPN’s most-watched weekday morning telecast ever (excluding holidays).

The game was also the highest-rated program of the day on any network among young men demos.

On the digital side, ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. vs. Algeria logged the largest U.S. audience ever for a sports event on the web, the cabler said. The game attracted nearly 1.1 million unique viewers with an average time spent viewing of 43 minutes, ESPN said.

Overall, here’s how the games have stacked up so far, according to Nielsen:

“These ratings demonstrate the remarkable increase of interest in U.S. soccer over the last four years,” said Stephen Master, VP of sports at Nielsen. “The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that two of these games were played on weekday mornings, when many viewers are at work. Although more people than ever chose to watch live streaming video of the games from their computers and mobile devices, TV viewing climbed even higher.”

Here’s how things shaped up in 2006:

USA plays Ghana this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on both ABC and Univision.

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