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USMNT-Belgium had larger TV audience than most recent NBA Finals or World Series

The combined audience on ESPN and Univision was about 21.6 million, with an additional 1.6 million watching online.

Interest in the World Cup has crossed the sports boundary lines.
Interest in the World Cup has crossed the sports boundary lines.
Mitchell Layton

Tuesday afternoons are not a time TV executive spend much time figuring out how to bring in massive audiences. But as we're learning this summer, the World Cup -- and specifically the United States men's national team -- is a glaring exception.

ESPN is reporting an average audience of about 16.5 million people tuned into ESPN's broadcast of USA-Belgium, which kicked off at 4 p.m. eastern and 1 p.m. pacific. Univision is reporting an audience of 5.1 million on their over-the-air, Spanish-language broadcast.

The combined TV audience -- which notoriously does not include viewing parties which drew tens of thousands of people to some locations -- comes in at around 21.6 million. While that's not exactly jaw-dropping by big-time sports-event standards, it is significant. For context consider this:

Over the last decade, only three NBA Finals games and only two World Series games had bigger audiences, albeit on just one channel apiece.

ESPN is also reporting an average audience of about 1.1 million on its WatchESPN app, and Univision averaged 563,000 on their livestream, adding another 1.6 million to the average audience.

The big numbers aren't just reserved for USA games, either, with both networks boasting of record audiences across the entire tournament.

ESPN has been averaging more than 4 million viewers on the 56 World Cup games they've broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. That's a 44 percent bump from 2010 and a 122 percent increase from 2006, both of which were played in the Eastern Hemisphere and at even less convenient times. The six most-watched men's soccer matches in ESPN's history have all been played during this tournament.

Univision averaged 4.4 million during the eight Round of 16 matches and has reported a total audience of 70.9 for the entire tournament up until now, a 39 percent improvement from 2010.

Keep in mind, the vast majority of these matches were played during work hours throughout this country and that only four matches included the United States.