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Originally published July 12, 2010 at 9:36 PM | Page modified July 13, 2010 at 10:35 AM

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World Cup final had 24.4 million viewers in United States | Soccer

World Cup television viewership rose 41 percent and the rating was up 31 percent over four years ago for English-language telecasts in the United States, with Spain's 1-0 extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the final setting a record for a men's soccer game.

Follow the 2010 World Cup with our dynamic fan's guide that has team, group, schedule and venue info as well as live match stats from the first kick on June 11 to the final whistle on July 11.

World Cup Home

Where to watch the World Cup

The scene in South Africa

NEW YORK — World Cup television viewership rose 41 percent and the rating was up 31 percent over four years ago for English-language telecasts in the United States, with Spain's 1-0 extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the final setting a record for a men's soccer game.

Sunday's match in Johannesburg, South Africa, which gave Spain its first World Cup title, was seen by 15.545 million viewers on ABC, according to fast national ratings. The previous men's high was 14.863 million viewers for the United States' 2-1 overtime loss to Ghana in the second round on June 26.

An additional 8.821 million viewers watched Spanish-language coverage Sunday on Univision, according to Nielsen Media Research, bringing the total of U.S. viewers of the final to nearly 24.4 million.

ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged a 2.1 rating and 3.261 million viewers for the 64 World Cup matches, compared with averages of a 1.6 rating and 2.316 million viewers four years ago.

The increases had been higher while the United States remained in the tournament. Through the first 50 matches, the rating was up 48 percent and viewers rose by 60 percent.

"We always expected that the presence of the U.S. team would provide us with these big spikes," John Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president of content, said Monday. "The TV rating is only a little piece of the story. One of every three people watched on something other than the television at their home — either watched in a bar, or on their phone, or in their office on a computer."

ESPN paid FIFA $100 million for rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, while Univision spent $325 million.

The only World Cup match with more U.S. English-language viewers than for Spain's victory Sunday was the 1999 women's final at the Rose Bowl, when the United States beat China and 17.975 million watched on ABC.

As for markets, Miami-Fort Lauderdale finished with the highest average 2010 tournament rating on ABC/ESPN at 3.9, beating New York and Washington D.C. (3.6 each).

Univision averaged 2.624 million viewers for the tournament, up 17 percent from four years ago.

Spain celebrates

MADRID — Spain erupted with its biggest fiesta in memory when its team returned to a jubilant nation after winning the World Cup, giving elated Spaniards a break from months of economic gloom and political squabbling.

Hundreds of thousands of people — if not more — jammed Madrid's historic avenues as an open-air bus ferried the team down stately avenues to cheers from Spaniards decked out in a sea of red and yellow.

At the Royal Palace, King Juan Carlos hugged many players and gave manager Vicente del Bosque friendly punches.

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