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Nielsen: Nearly 16 million watch Ghana-US

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly 16 million people in the United States watched the country's World Cup opener on television.

The Nielsen company says 11.1 million people who saw the U.S. beat Ghana 2-1 on ESPN represented that network's biggest audience for a soccer match. Nielsen says an additional 4.8 million people watched the Spanish-language broadcast on Univision.

That's down from the 17.3 million who saw the first U.S. match in the 2010 tournament, against England, which was shown on ABC and Univision. Four years ago 19.7 million people watched the U.S.-Ghana match, which ended the United States' run in the tournament.

ESPN says an additional 469,000 watched a digital stream of this year's match, a usage record for its WatchESPN app. Comparable Univision numbers were not immediately available.


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Putting that in perspective:

NEW YORK -- The San Antonio Spurs' redemption title was a big hit with television viewers.

Nearly 18 million viewers tuned in to watch the Spurs clinch in Game 5 on Sunday night. That's a 10 percent increase from Game 5 between the same teams last year. Nielsen says viewership peaked at 22.4 million in the last half hour of the Spurs' 104-87 win.

The 10.3 national rating on ABC was up from 9.5 last year.

The five-game series averaged 15.5 million viewers and a 9.3 rating. That's up from 15.1 million viewers and a 9.1 rating through five games of the 2013 classic series.

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Portugal match sets viewership marks in US

NEW YORK (AP) — The United States' 2-2 World Cup draw with Portugal is almost certainly the most-viewed soccer match ever in the United States.

The Nielsen company said Monday that the gripping game was seen by an average of 24.7 million viewers Sunday evening on ESPN and Univision. That matches it with the 24.7 million U.S. viewers who watched the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.

ESPN said an additional 490,000 people streamed coverage of the game on their mobile devices through the company's app. Streaming numbers for 2010 weren't immediately available, but it's very unlikely it reached that level.

Many factors were in place to make it a big night for soccer on television. It was an exciting game, interest in the U.S. team was high because of the first-game victory against Ghana and World Cup viewing in general has been up.

With a Sunday evening time slot, the game was on at a time many Americans were available to watch.

ESPN said the 18.2 million people who watched on the sports network made it the most-watched non-football — that is, American football — event in the network's history. The telecast hit a peak of nearly 23 million viewers between 7:30 and 8 p.m. EDT.

The 6.5 million people who watched on Univision represented the highest viewership for a match involving the United States ever on the Spanish-language network.

For many people with Latin-American roots used to following their home country's matches on Univision, the United States has become their second-favorite team, said Juan Carlos Ramirez, president of Univision Sports.

ABC had just under 18 million viewers in 1999 for the women's World Cup final between the United States and China, the previous best for an English-language network in the U.S. That game was not telecast on Univision.


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/\/\ And that doesn't include group viewing in bars, public parks, etc. I was at the SF War Memorial Opera House for a matinee yesterday PM; and I was alternating between the stage show and the big screen set up at the back of City Hall where probably a good 800-1,000 people gathered to watch.

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World Cup: Does US really have the most fans in Brazil?

The country where the most World Cup match tickets were bought, outside Brazil, was the US. Why, asks Tom Geoghegan.

Nearly 200,000 match tickets were bought in the US, which comes as some surprise given that "soccer" is still way behind US sports in popularity. The next biggest market was Argentina, a long way behind, followed by Germany, England and Colombia, according to Fifa.

The number of US fans travelling overseas isn't surprising to Christopher Harris, editor and publisher of WorldSoccerTalk.com. "US Soccer has done a fantastic job marketing to the audience, who have disposable income, love sports and don't mind spending thousands of dollars to support their country."

Soccer is a perfect embodiment of American patriotism, he says, with very few US sports having a national sports team that can compete with the best in the world.

A major reason for the recent increase in travelling fans is the growing popularity of the American Outlaws supporters group, says Harris, which has 135 chapters nationwide and flew three charter planes to Brazil. There, they have outnumbered most other fans, inside and outside the stadiums. Not long ago, it was hard to find the USA football shirt in shops, now they're ubiquitous in Brazil. One long-time USA fan, Jason Burak, told Slate the transformation has made him well up

The US fans are here, they are visible and so loud that they draw puzzled looks from locals and other tourists alike.

On non-game days, you will hear the American accents in restaurants up and down Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, but when the US team plays, the streets are filled with stars-and-stripe Speedos, red and blue Mohicans and continuous chants of "U S A! U S A!"

In the viewing areas, when Spain or Netherlands play, the atmosphere is joyous and relaxed, but when Klinsmann's team kicks off, thousands of US fans fill the beach-side viewing party and it's more like a sold-out rock concert.

Hailing from all over the US, some boast "soccer" knowledge rivalling the post-game analysts, others are just here "to have fun". Rio has noticed, the Americans are in town. Argentina and Chile fans are also highly visible but the number of US fans could surpass even them.


Whether they are the biggest group is hard to say as so many fans travel without tickets. In Germany in 2006, it was widely believed that England fans formed the largest horde, with police estimating that 70,000 made the trip. There's also the likelihood that many of the tickets bought in the US were by fans of other countries, says leading football commentator Allen Hopkins. "We are a melting pot and although fans will identify as Americans, they may go to Brazil to support Mexico or Costa Rica and support the US on a secondary basis."

But there's little doubt that football has become "cool", says Hopkins, and Brazil has a particular allure for Americans, as the "Mecca" of football and a great place to party.

Top 10 ticket buyers

1. Brazil - 1,363,179

2. US - 196,838

3. Argentina - 61,021

4. Germany - 58,778

5. England - 57,917

6. Colombia - 54,477

7. Australia - 52,289

8. Chile - 38,638

9. France - 34,865

10. Mexico - 33,694

Source: Fifa


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Ghana flying in $3M cash for World Cup players

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — As much as $3 million in cash sent by Ghana's president was expected to arrive in Brazil on a plane Wednesday in a bid to appease members of the country's World Cup squad who are unhappy at being denied bonus payments.

President John Dramani Mahama has been forced to personally intervene in the latest bonus row to hit African football, which has seriously disrupted Ghana's preparations for its decisive Group G game against Portugal on Thursday.

Ghana midfielder Christian Atsu dismissed fears the team would boycott its final group game in Brasilia, which the Ghanaians need to win to stand any chance of reaching the second round.

"We are not going to say we are not going to play because of the money," Atsu said. "We love our nation and we are going to play for our nation."

Asked what the players will do with the appearance-fee cash — reportedly between $75,000 and $100,000 each — if they receive it as planned on Wednesday, Atsu said: "I think we will keep it in our bags and we'll just lock them. And we will transfer the money to our accounts."

Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said he had been having "sleepless nights" over the issue which came to a head on Tuesday when the players and team management had a meeting instead of conducting a training session. President Mahama "personally spoke to the players" to assure them they would receive the money, the Ghana Football Association said in a statement.

"Every player ... knows it is his right," Appiah said.

"The management and the government are trying to sort it out and everything will be sorted out in two or three hours' time," he added. "They should have received it before the start of the competition but it's being solved now and we are really focused on the game now."

Players aren't being paid by electronic transfer because "the practice in Ghana has always been paying the money in cash," Appiah said.

Appiah wouldn't give an exact figure for the appearance fees owed to the players, saying: "I would be a bad person ... the players would kill me if I said."

Ghana's deputy sports minister Joseph Yammin said that around $3 million would be flown over, but it wasn't clear how Ghana would be able to bring the money into Brazil without paying tax on it.

Brazilian officials said bringing in such an amount and not declaring it to authorities would be illegal and that the entire amount could be confiscated. Individuals cannot bring in more than $4,500 each without having it subject to taxes, said Brazil's Federal Police, who enforce custom and immigration laws.

The nation's federal tax agency also said it knew of no exemptions for any individuals or entities, including Ghana's World Cup team. The agency didn't indicate in the emailed statement what sort of taxes could be levied on money over that limit.

Like other African countries playing at the World Cup, Ghana's government is financing the player bonuses. The money will later be reimbursed by some of the prize money — of at least $8 million — that FIFA guarantees each country, even if it is knocked out in the group stage. That won't be paid to Ghana until after the tournament, the GFA said. FIFA also gives each of the 32 teams competing $1.5 million beforehand to help with preparation costs.



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Muntari & Boateng expelled by Ghana

Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng have been kicked out of Ghana's World Cup squad for indiscipline.

A statement on the Ghana Football Association website said both players "have been suspended indefinitely".

Boateng, of Schalke 04, has been expelled for "vulgar verbal insults targeted at coach Kwesi Appiah during the team's training session in Maceio".

AC Milan's Muntari has been punished for an "unprovoked physical attack on an executive committee member".

The Ghana FA statement added that the incident involving Muntari took place on Tuesday and named Moses Armah, who is a member of the team management, as the man assaulted by the 29-year-old midfielder.



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I have to say, despite what ticket selling statistics say, that for me there are way more argentines, chileans and colombians than americans in Brazil. At least that's what I have seen at the games of those four teams.

Maybe many of the people who bought tickets from USA actually support other teams?

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I have to say, despite what ticket selling statistics say, that for me there are way more argentines, chileans and colombians than americans in Brazil. At least that's what I have seen at the games of those four teams.

Maybe many of the people who bought tickets from USA actually support other teams?

Don't be silly. The pre-sold and foreign allocation stats should be a solidly reliable index of foreign fan representation at the games. Do you think undergoing the ticket application; and then the Visa application (especially arduous for US fans in a tit-for-tat battle between Brazil and the US State Dept); AND then making expensive travel arrangements, is a joke? It is cheaper for Chileans and Argentinians because they are just one border away. But I would say that the solid ticket stats should reflect reliable numbers much as US fans were also the largest foreign contingent recorded for 2010.

If anything, Japan team support is probably the most under-counted if you went by foreign ticket allocations because there are supposedly 1 million + Brazilians of Japanese descent. So the Japanese-Brazilian contingent is buried in the domestic ticket sales figures.

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When you look at Univision's ratings, it's clear there's a very large Spanish speaking soccer base in the United States, and its not unreasonable to assume many of them are fans of other countries, espeically Mexico. Plus some number of Brazilians in the US going down for the tournament. Plus some fans going to experience "The World Cup" and not necessarily follow the US Team... folks staying in fancy Ipanema hotels and not heading up to Manaus.

There's still a ton of American there to cheer the USMNT, but not as many as the ticket sales indicate.

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