The World Cup is moving into elite territory as a sports property on U.S. television, as ratings for Sunday's game between the United States and Portugal were the highest for any soccer game and reached more viewers than events like the NBA Finals or the World Series.
Sunday's game, which ended in a 2-2 tie after Portugal scored a late goal, attracted 18.2 million viewers on ESPN. The previous record, for the 1999 Women's World Cup final, which was won by the U.S., was 17.9 million viewers. That game was on a broadcast network - ABC - rather than cable television.
While not near the totals scored by the NFL, even for many regular-season games, the U.S. audience for the World Cup game on Sunday easily eclipsed the NBA Finals this year, which averaged 15.5 million viewers, as well as the 2013 World Series, which averaged 14.9 million viewers. The NHL playoffs are not even remotely as popular as the World Cup, having averaged only 5 million viewers this season.