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U.S.-Japan Women's World Cup showdown scored record American audience for soccer

Bloomberg

The Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan drew a record U.S. audience for a soccer game carried by a single network, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings released by Fox.

An estimated 15.2 percent of U.S. TV households tuned in to the network’s coverage, surpassing the record 13.3 percent set during the 1999 Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and China on ABC, Fox said Monday in a statement.

The U.S. beat Japan 5-2 on Sunday, led by three goals from midfielder Carli Lloyd. It was the third time the U.S. women’s team has won the tournament, and the first time since 1999. Sunday’s game in Vancouver, British Columbia, was a rematch of the 2011 final held in Frankfurt, and the rating was 77 percent better than the 8.6 ESPN drew for the previous meeting, which Japan won on penalty kicks.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup has provided a much-needed ratings lift for Fox, which has lost a fifth of its viewers in the TV season that began in September. Fox began airing the tournament in prime time on June 12. The U.S. has 116.4 million TV households, according to Nielsen.

The popularity of the tournament underscores the growing audience for soccer in the U.S., especially among young viewers and women. The Fox network, part of 21 Century Fox Inc., has made coverage of the Women’s World Cup a flagship summer event, attracting sponsors like Fiat and Samsung, and delivering record audiences, including a doubling of the female audience compared with four years ago.

The highest major-market soccer rating for a men’s game in the U.S., a 9.1 on ESPN, came during last year’s World Cup as the American men earned a 2-2 draw with Portugal during the group stage. The rating for Sunday’s game peaked at more than twice that, an 18.3, as the game concluded and the American women began their celebration.

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