Record 24.6 million watched U.S.-Portugal World Cup game

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The US plays against Portugal at the World Cup. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
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Alex Weprin

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The U.S.-Portugal World Cup game played Sunday afternoon drew an average of 24.6 million viewers on television, between ESPN and Univision, making it by far the most watched soccer telecast in U.S. history.

All told, an average of 18.2 million people watched the game on ESPN, with 6.4 million watching the Spanish-language telecast on Univision. An additional 1.37 million people watched the game on the WatchESPN service. The previous record-holder was the 1999 Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and China, which averaged 18 million viewers.

For ESPN, the soccer game was the most-watched telecast ever outside of N.F.L. or college football broadcasts. For the first 32 matches of the tournament, ESPN, ABC and ESPN2 are averaging 4.27 million viewers per match, up 50 percent from the 2010 tournament.

It should also be noted that the World Cup is still in the preliminary rounds. Should the U.S. advance to the 16-team knockout round with a win or draw on Thursday, there is a good chance that the record set on Sunday will be beaten.

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The U.S. is playing Germany on Thursday in a game set to begin at 12 p.m. Eastern, making it unlikely to top the Portugal game. Sunday’s game benefitted from a top-level timeslot, in a period where N.F.L. games are proven ratings-drivers.

The game also underscores just how big soccer has become in the U.S., though the true test will come once the World Cup ends.