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ESPN Nets 16.5 Million for USA-Belgium

The ratings boon that’s been the 2014 FIFA World Cup continued for ESPN, as the network’s coverage of Team USA’s loss in the Round of 16 Tuesday afternoon drew another large audience.

The network averaged 16.5 million viewers for the Americans’ 2-1 defeat in extra time against Belgium, which eliminated them from the World Cup. That ranks as the second-most watched men’s soccer telecast in U.S. history, behind the 18.2 million that tuned in to watch USA play to a draw with Portugal during the group stage.

Aside from the USA-Portugal match, the only other soccer game of any kind to top Tuesday’s match was the 1999 Women’s World Cup final.

World Cup coverage continues through the 4th of July weekend with the quarterfinals on Friday and Saturday.

Spanish-language broadcaster Univision added 5.1 million viewers to bring the total U.S. viewership to 21.6 million.

The four matches that featured the United States averaged just over 14 million viewers for ESPN. That puts it slightly below the average viewership for major American championships in last year’s World Series (15 million over 6 games) and this spring’s NBA Finals (15.5 million over 5 games).

However, it should be noted that the World Cup is a once-in-four-years “event” while the World Series and NBA Finals take place each year.