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USA-Ghana World Cup game draws huge domestic ratings

Soccer fans cheer before the World Cup match

Soccer fans cheer before the World Cup match between the USA and Ghana on Monday, June 16, 2014 at Lynch's Irish Pub in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. Credit: AP / Will Dickey

Nearly 16 million people in the United States watched the country's World Cup opener on television.

The Nielsen company says 11.1 million people who saw the United States beat Ghana, 2-1, on ESPN on Monday represented that network's biggest audience for a soccer match. Nielsen says an additional 4.8 million people watched the Spanish-language Univision broadcast.

That's down from the 17.3 million who saw the first U.S. match in the 2010 tournament, against England, which was shown on ABC and Univision on a Saturday afternoon. Four years ago, 19.7 million people watched the U.S.-Ghana match in the knockout round, which ended Team USA's run in the tournament and was also shown on ABC and Univision on a Saturday afternoon.

The combined ESPN / Univision rating for United States vs. Ghana in the New York market was larger than the rating in New York for any Stanley Cup Final game between the Rangers and Kings. In addition, the USA vs. Ghana rating in the local market was higher than any NHL Final, NBA Finals or 2013 World Series game in New York.

ESPN says an additional 469,000 watched a digital stream of this year's match, a usage record for its WatchESPN app. Comparable Univision numbers were not immediately available.

There's a strong likelihood viewership for the next two U.S. games will eclipse the 2010 tournament, in part because the time zones in Brazil are close to those in the United States. Games four years ago with Slovenia and Algeria, shown on ESPN and Univision in the morning hours, reached 7.5 million and 8.7 million.

Through 14 games, World Cup action on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC has averaged 4.11 million viewers, up from 3.35 million at the same juncture in 2010, Nielsen said.ESPN's streaming viewership is up 170 percent over the last World Cup.

Nielsen does not measure people who watch the games at work or in bars.-- AP

With Neil Best

New York Sports