The United States' mostly inspired—and occasionally soul-crushing—group play in the World Cup this year has garnered record-breaking ratings. Our first match, a victory over Ghana, was the most-watched soccer game ever on ESPN. Official ratings for the second match, a brutal tie against Portugal, are still being processed, but they will certainly (and deservedly) be astronomical.
Does America finally love soccer?
No. Or, more specifically: No, there isn't yet much evidence that rapt TV audiences from the World Cup will keep watching soccer between quadrennial worldwide championships. Soccer isn't becoming America's new baseball. The World Cup is becoming America's new Summer Olympics.
World Cup ratings have steadily grown since 2006. But to see the U.S.-Ghana game in its proper context, look at average television sports audiences for U.S. championships (RED), U.S. regular seasons (BLUE), and quadrennial worldwide contests (GREEN).
Record-Setting World Cup Ratings, but in Context
Audience numbers in millions (average for multi-game events)
The soccer evangelist says: The World Cup is nearly as popular as the World Series on television. The soccer skeptic says: ... and in the 1,400 days between World Cup matches, everybody goes back to not watching soccer on TV.