Many assumed that the United States women's national team's run to the World Cup final increased the popularity of soccer in the U.S., and now there are numbers to back up that notion.
According to Douglas Pucci of TV Media Insights, Team USA's 5-2 triumph over Japan on Sunday generated a remarkable 15.2 overnight rating in the United States, which means between 21.0 million and 23.5 million viewers tuned in.
Per Jason Lisk of The Big Lead, that number topped the 13.3 rating garnered by the United States' thrilling win over China in 1999, and it far exceeded the 8.6 rating posted during Team USA's loss to Japan four years ago.
To put the 15.2 rating into perspective, Mike Conti of 92.9 The Game in Atlanta points out that the 2015 Women's World Cup final measured up to the biggest game America's pastime has to offer:
Sunday's final was unique in that the Americans had already seized a 4-0 lead by the 16-minute mark of the match thanks to a hat trick from Golden Ball winner Carli Lloyd and an additional goal from midfielder Lauren Holiday.
The 1999 USWNT's triumph over China has long been viewed as one of the biggest moments in American women's sports history, but even more eyes were on Sunday's win. And ESPN's Dick Vitale believes those who witnessed it will be fueled by the accomplishment moving forward:
There was a great deal of pressure on this year's team to answer the bell after the disappointment of losing to Japan in 2011. But it certainly lived up to expectations by allowing only one goal in the entire tournament leading up to the final and then ending it with an exclamation point.
Soccer is only growing more popular in the United States, as evidenced by the record-breaking 26.5 million people who watched the men's World Cup final last year.
With the American women's team firmly establishing itself as the most dominant international force, that popularity promises to rise as the squad turns its eyes to next summer, when it will defend its gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.
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