On Monday afternoon we tweeted about the fantastic overnight ratings for the USA/Brazil match on Sunday. The game drew a 2.6 rating, the highest figure since the 1999 Final. That entire tournament was based in the United States and had been heavily promoted by a wide array of media outlets including ESPN. What makes the 2011 number so impressive, was that the game was only a quarterfinal, kickoff was at breakfast time for much of the country and the tournament is not nearly as omnipresent as the 1999 version.
The match was the center of conversation online, on air and at the water cooler all day. Even non soccer and non womens sports fans were moved by the drama of the game and the nationwide focus on the USA victory has a much more “organic” feel than the 1999 team or even the 2010 USA Men. Will it last? Will it make a difference in WPS?
The three year old league has definitely had some ups and downs in the last couple of years. We have documented the league’s struggles at the gate, but things reached a bizarre stage when the former Washington Freedom franchise was sold to a Florida based investor who refused to name the team and the league defending champions closed up shop in consecutive seasons. Despite those strange circumstances, the league continues to pick up new sponsors and open stadiums. WPS announced that Sahlen’s Hot Dogs is the league’s 6th official sponsor and a new franchise and SSS opened in Buffalo for the 2011 campaign.
The WPS could certainly use the boost and a deeper run by the American team could generate interest in the fledgling league. The Cup may represent the last, best, chance for the league to generate publicity and bring fans to their stadiums. A mid-day game on Wednesday may not be the best time slot for a successful broadcast, but increased media attention from main stream outlets combined with a semi-final victory could make the upcoming final a very big sports event.