If you had a to sum up 2018 in one word, I think that word is… solid. Turn back to the last chapter of 2017, I, along with everyone else, highlighted the upcoming 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup as THE event of the following summer – a guaranteed ratings bonanza for FOX and Telemundo. Despite the U.S. not participating, various digital / streaming and television viewing records were set. In what should come as no surprise, 48 of the top 50 most-watched games of 2018 were FIFA World Cup games. Those 48 games averaged a shade under 5.7M viewers.
In 2018, there were approximately 2,800 games on U.S. TV – down slightly from 2017, but with shifting rights holders and an ever-growing move towards OTT streaming, a decrease in games on TV should not be a surprise. Over 700 teams – from Arsenal to the Canadian U-17 Women to Emelec to the Kashima Antlers – all made at least one appearance on TV, a staggering number. What can I say – we American fans have it pretty, pretty good.
One of the other bigger storylines of the year was the continued growth – and domination – of Liga MX here in the U.S. The Mexican league is no stranger to the American soccer fan, as evidenced by the below viewership totals. According to our numbers, seven Liga MX games in 2018 had larger audiences than both Major League Soccer’s and the Premier League’s most-watched games. Of the five most-watched games of the year – all FIFA World Cup games – three of five featured the Mexican National Team, who, through their ten most-watched games of the year, averaged 5.1M U.S. viewers. For comparison, the U.S. Men’s National Team averaged 1.3M viewers in their ten most-watched games in 2018.
In 2019, we have the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France to look forward to and the good news is two-fold: 1) the U.S. women have qualified and 2) the ceiling for their success is very high. On the men’s side, the Gold Cup also takes place this summer and should be interesting as countries in the region re-tool and get ready for the next World Cup Qualifying cycle. The competition will serve as Gregg Berhalter’s first meaningful competition at the helm of the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Like the years prior and the years ahead, 2019 looks to be another great year of soccer viewing in the U.S., so turn on, tune in, and keep watching the sport we all love and enjoy.