Man U-Real Madrid showdown turns in top ratings in US

Michelle Clancy | 11-03-2013

The recent Manchester United and Real Madrid clash in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on 5 March provided further evidence that the beautiful game is gaining popularity in the one area of the world where it has been traditionally ignored: the US.
According to Nielsen, the match drew the third-best performance for a (non-American) football match on FOX Soccer ever, along with an even better showing on the Spanish-language FOX Deportes. Both networks together delivered a respectable 1.102 million viewers with the telecast on FOX Soccer viewed by 520,000 people in the US in English, while on FOX Deportes, Real Madrid's 2-1 victory was viewed by 582,000 viewers.
The game was the most- watched weekday telecast of any kind for the network and the top-rated Champion's League telecast in its history. However, and perhaps adding insult to injury to the Red Devils, despite the impressive audience the record for a non-final tournament match still belongs to arch rivals and five times Champions League winners Liverpool in their game against Chelsea in 2011 which drew 579,000 viewers.
Football is slowly gaining ground in the US, in a wave that arguably began with the 2010 FIFA World Cup — the first time the tournament was presented in English in that country. The only earlier telecast of note is the 1994 World Cup Final between Brazil vs. Italy, also televised on ABC/Univision, which drew 18.1 million.
But the World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands drew a total of 24.3 million US viewers, making it the most watched soccer game in US television history, according to Nielsen. The figure, which includes viewership on both ABC and Univision during the two-and-a-half-hour game window, surpasses the record of 19.4 million viewers that tuned in to the US vs. Ghana match earlier in the tournament — when the US got eliminated by their continental hosts.
Recently, English Premier League games shown on ESPN 2 have had some success. For example, 570,000 people tuned in to ESPN2 to watch Manchester United against Arsenal in December 2010; and 610,000 viewers watched Arsenal vs. Chelsea on ESPN2 in that same month.