The numbers are simply astounding. The Mexico/USA World Cup Qualifier managed a remarkable 7.2 million viewers in the United States. 2.4 million of those viewers were on ESPN with the balance watching in Spanish on UniMas. In terms of ratings, the game drew a 1.6 overnight on ESPN, more than double the previous best for a qualifier on the World Wide Leader. The Friday night match on ESPN from DSG drew a solid .6, but the promotion of the Mexico match resulted in huge numbers for the Tuesday night game.
The ESPN coverage was befitting of a SuperBowl. ESPN brought at least 9 on-air personalities to Azteca, stocking the pre-game and halftime show with a four man booth including the experienced Bob Ley and smooth Lalas. The broadcast team featured a three man booth while the network offered a sideline reporter for each squad. The network started with a 60 minute pregame show that included a number of great features including an English/Spanish piece with Lalas and Borgetti.
ESPN also did a great job promoting the game across its multiple platforms, including radio, Around the Horn, Sportscenter and more. Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of the lead-upu was an interview with Monica Gonzalez on the “Spanning the Globe” portion of the Colin Cowherd show on ESPN Radio. Gonzalez seemed oddly unprepared for the interview and defaulted to a defense of the sport’s popularity rather than provide a detailed explanation of the table and importance of the game.
Nevertheless, the telecast was impressive, the numbers monumental and the result significant. With more than a year until the World Cup Finals in Brazil, American sports fans got interested in international soccer on a significant scale.
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