World Cup viewing grows in the US

Gabriel Miramar-Garcia | 17 June 2014

The World Cup is slowly winning the hearts and minds of the one nation that has historically failed to embrace the beautiful game: according to a Washington Post-ABC poll, 28% of Americans said that they plan to watch World Cup games this summer.

This bodes well for viewing statistics: in the United States, 94.5 million people (about 31% of the population) watched at least 20 consecutive minutes of the last World Cup, an increase of 19% over the 2006 World Cup in Germany, according to the Pew Research Centre.

That said, in the Post survey, more Americans called soccer as a sport "a big bore" (28%) than said that it's "exciting" (19%).

In a Pew Research survey conducted in January, 22% of Americans said they were "especially looking forward to" the World Cup, nearly the same share as when asked about the 2010 World Cup in January of that year (23%). But no other event mentioned in the 2014 survey found fewer people anticipating the event.

That same study also revealed a few interesting global findings. For instance world will be watching Brazil both for this summer's World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics but Brazilians are sceptical about whether the world will see Brazil in a positive light. About a third (35%) of Brazilians said the World Cup will help their country's international image, while roughly four out of ten (39%) said it will hurt Brazil's image, according to a survey conducted in April.

World Cup viewing is expected to surpass previous records, according to Pew Research.

"Of all the numbers associated with the event 32 teams, 64 matches, 736 players, each team's odds of winning some of the biggest (with the exception of the World Cup's reported $11.5 billion price tag) are the numbers of people who will be watching," the group said.

About 3.2 billion people around the world (roughly 46% of the global population) watched at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on TV in their homes, according to a report produced for FIFA by the British firm KantarSport. Nearly one billion people (909.6 million) tuned in for at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup final, in which Spain defeated the Netherlands, a similar viewership number to the London Olympics' opening ceremonies.