If Thursday seemed like a particularly unproductive day at work, there's a good reason why. Based on the various ratings numbers being released by ESPN and Univision, somewhere between 23-25 million people were watching the United States play Germany in the World Cup. That game kicked off at noon on the East Coast and at 9 a.m. on the West Coast.
Here's how that breaks down: About 10.8 million watched on ESPN and about 3.4 million on Spanish-language Univision. That's combined with the 3.2 million who were following along on ESPN's online application and 1.7 million who were on Univision's. Yes, that only adds up to about 19.1 million people, but those numbers are routinely under-reported and it's more than safe to say that bars and viewing parties accounted for a couple million as well.
This was not a record, at least not an official one. Saturday's game between the United States and Portugal drew more than 18 million on ESPN and another 6.5 million on Univision, making it the most watched soccer game in U.S. history.
But that game was on a Sunday afternoon when the country's sports fans were just looking for something to do. The U.S.-Germany match was obviously smack dab in the middle of the work day and the work week. Watching this game was not the product of casual fandom, it was the kind of behavior normally reserved for diehards.
And yet, there are anecdotes a-plenty of very non-sports-obsessed businesses putting work aside to bond over a soccer match, something that seems almost impossible to believe considering how "Americans don't watch soccer," according to some in the commentariat.
It would be ridiculous to say that soccer has surpassed other American sports in terms of sheer popularity. The NBA Finals are only a year removed from their best-ever ratings, drawing about 26 million to ABC alone for 2013's Game 7. The average Sunday evening NFL match draws about 27 million viewers. An average World Cup group stage match drew a about 3.5 million on ESPN's networks, which is a record, but still obviously a lot smaller than some of the other major sports in this country.
Still, this kind of behavior indicates something has changed in terms of soccer's perception. It might only be a once-every-four-years kind of change, but there's no denying soccer is at least capable of causing all those CPS reports to be delayed.