About a year ago, the US Women's National team faced off against Japan in the 2011 World Cup Final, attracting an astonishing 13.5 million viewers to ESPN. The game, which Japan won in penalty kicks, was the highest rated soccer match ever for ESPN and even surpassed the 2006 World Cup Final on the list of top viewed soccer events in United States history.
As the 2012 Women's Gold Medal Game looms, expect that previous mark to be shattered. The final, which will take place Thursday, August 9th at 2:30 EST on the NBC Sports Network, is one of the most anticipated events of the entire Summer Games.
On the bright side, fans will get to see the game live. Although prime-time events are prone to higher ratings, there is nothing more enjoyable than watching an event transpire in real time. This way, the outcome isn't ruined by tweets, internet headlines and breaking TV reports.
While it was still incredible to watch Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt race to gold, most of the magic was inevitably lost by knowing the result before even watching them compete.
However, some viewers may be lost because it's a weekday and right in the middle of the work schedule. The typical nine-to-fiver will have to race home from the office just for a chance to catch the final few minutes of the game (pray for extra time!) The World Cup Final was a Sunday, which obviously is a much easier day to attract an audience.
But this Olympics has the advantage of the competing women dominating the media headlines. Forward Alex Morgan, who scored the winner in the semifinal against Canada, has become one of the country's most recognizable female athletes. She posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and has been the star of a "This Is Sportscenter" commercial.
Commercial co-star and goalkeeper Hope Solo has also been keeping her name in the headlines, but not always for ideal reasons. Before the Olympics, she admitted to appearing on The Today Show drunk, failed a drug test that almost kept her from competing and has been quite the active tweeter, going as far as calling out the commentators of the Olympics for their "negative" commentating.
The on-field product is tremendous. They're competitive, play games down to the wire and stir up quite the dramatic moments. The off-field personalities are captivating, and combined with the incredible American patriotism and commitment to their teams, expect the biggest audience for a women's soccer game in global history.