(Reuters) – More people in the United States tuned in to the U.S.-Belgium World Cup soccer match on Tuesday than they did for the World Series of baseball – the top championship game for the sport also known as the national pastime.
Disney-owned ESPN said it was the second highest rated men’s soccer game, with about 16.5 million viewers, and that it bested its record for its streaming video app WatchESPN, with 1.1 million viewers.
Spanish-language broadcast network Univision said 5.1 million watched the U.S. play Belgium in the knockout match.
Belgium beat the U.S. 2-1 during extra time in the hard-fought contest, setting up the European team to go up against Argentina in the quarter-finals.
The number of people watching the U.S. and Belgium was likely much higher, given that scores of thousands jammed bars, restaurants and sports stadiums to view the contest. Nielsen, which provides TV ratings, measures only U.S. households.
The more than 22 million watching on Tuesday beat the number of viewers – some 19 million – who tuned in to see the Boston Red Sox win the World Series last year.
Still, soccer has a long way to go before it catches up in popularity with football. The National Football League’s annual Super Bowl drew in more than 111 million U.S. viewers this year.
(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; editing by Gunna Dickson)