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Scott D. Pierce: World Cup final reels in a multitude of viewers

Published: Thursday, July 15 2010 11:22 p.m. MDT

Well, here's some information the soccer haters aren't going to like — Sunday's World Cup final was the most-watched soccer match in U.S. television history.

And, try as they might, it won't be easy for the soccer haters to minimize the numbers. Check out this little comparison:

 The 2010 NBA Finals averaged 18 million viewers.

 The 2009 World series averaged 19.4 million viewers.

 The 2010 World Cup final drew 24.3 million viewers.

That's startling even to soccer lovers. And, no doubt, astounding to soccer haters.

The 24.3 million figure is the average number watching at any one time during the telecast. The Nielsen Co. estimates a total of 111.6 million viewers watched at least part of the match.

What makes this all the more amazing is that there was no hint of homer-ism to this. Team USA had been eliminated two weeks earlier.

As a matter of fact, Spain's 1-0 win over the Netherlands drew 4.9 million more American viewers than the U.S.-Ghana game — which had previously held the record as the most-watched soccer match in U.S. TV history.

As always, there are a number of factors involved in any ratings comparison. And while the United States' last game was played on a Friday morning, the final was played on a Sunday afternoon — which accounts for some of the difference.

By the same token, all six games of the 2009 World Series and all seven games of the 2010 NBA Finals were in prime time, when a whole lot more people are watching TV than on Sunday afternoon.

It certainly says something that Spain and the Netherlands did so well in comparison to legendary American sports franchises like the Yankees and the Lakers.

The growing interest in soccer is linked to the growing strength of Spanish-language broadcasters in this country. About 36 percent of the viewers (8.8 million) watched the final on Univision.

But that leaves 15.5 million who watched the English-language broadcast on ABC — an extremely strong number all by itself.

We can only imagine what viewership would have been had Team USA been involved.

SHOOT WHAT? I'll admit to being a tiny bit disappointed by the results of the World Cup final. I was sort of looking forward to a shootout before Spain's Andrés Iniesta scored in the 116th minute.

Or, as Alema Harrington told Ch. 2 viewers on Monday night, a "shootoff."

JUST HORRIFIC: LeBron James may not have an NBA championship ring, but he does have the distinction of having The Worst Self-Inflicted Public Relations Disaster in Sports History.

Not self-inflicted like Tiger Woods — this was planned publicity.

And after shooting himself in the foot with that disastrous ESPN special to announce his decision to go to Miami, he followed that up with that "party" the following night.

In two days, LeBron went from one of the most well-liked American sports figures to one of the most disliked. The man was booed at a wedding over the weekend.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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