American viewers tuned into the European Championships 2012 Final in record numbers on ESPN, as the sport continues to grow in popularity.
The game contested between Spain and Italy on Sunday, July 1 was watched by an average of just over four million viewers, a jump of eight percent from the 2008 final which was also won by Spain—against Germany.
That figure was a previous record for U.S. viewers of a European Championship match.
The average viewing attendance for all 31 matches at Euro 2012 was 1.3 million, which represented a 51 percent increase on the numbers from the 2008 edition of the tournament.
American viewers are undoubtedly tuning in more often to European-based football (or soccer, if you prefer) as the sport gains more followers and increasing numbers of players head to the Major League Soccer franchises to play out their days.
Whilst David Beckham has gained press in England over the past few days for not making the Olympic football squad for Great Britain, his influence, along with the likes of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane (all of whom play for the L.A. Galaxy), should not be understated.
Four of the group games in the opening three days of Euro 2012 picked up more viewers than any of the group-stage matches in 2008, further proof that it is European football in general, and not merely the biggest games, which are attracting attention.
Indeed, the Italy vs. Spain Euro 2012 final was the most-watched sports event on any cable channel last week.
As the American audience continues to grow, the signs are good for the future of American soccer, both at national and club-team level. The more interest at home in watching, the more likely younger players are to get into regular playing habits. And eventually, given proper coaching and youth structure, this will in turn lead to better players being produced by the country.
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