Argentina's epic World Cup final win over France also broke a television viewership record.
The match, which featured a frenetic back-and-forth contest with plenty of goals and a penalty shootout, was the most-watched men's World Cup game in English-language TV history, according to Fox. It beat the United States' group stage draw with England, which drew nearly 15.6 million viewers. The game was also the most-watched final in the U.S. since Italy versus Brazil in 1994.
There is some dispute as to whether or not this number actually broke any records, though. ESPN's soccer PR lead Bill Hofheimer tweeted that Fox's number would actually still fall behind the 2014 match between U.S. and Portugal on ESPN and the 2014 final between Germany and Argentina on ABC. Those matches drew 18.2 million and 17.3 million viewers, respectively, according to ESPN. This could be because, perhaps, Fox doesn't yet have access to the whistle-to-whistle numbers for viewership as ESPN eventually got for theirs.
While Fox's number is still objectively big, it pales in comparison to the viewership the Super Bowl brings in annually. Super Bowl XLIX between New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks holds the current record at 114.442 million viewers in 2015, which is around eight times as many as the 2022 World Cup final.
This is perhaps the most obvious way to show how much ground soccer (or international football) has to cover if it wants to catch American football as the most popular sport in the U.S. Not to mention that 30 of the 32 most-watched broadcasts in U.S. television history are Super Bowls (the series finale of M*A*S*H and the 2016 presidential debates were the other two).
Fortunately, the World Cup match had everything that makes soccer great. Each side scored three goals in a fantastical comeback effort by France. Two of the sports' biggest stars — Argentina's Lionel Messi and France's Kylian Mbappé — were on full display. And fans' reactions to the game were some of the best in years.
It will be extremely telling how viable soccer will be in the eyes of American viewers when the World Cup comes to North America in 2026. Cities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico will host the expanded 48-team lineup. Remember that 1994 title match between Italy and Brazil that held the previous viewership record for a final? Well, it was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.