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Friday, June 14, 2024

Fox Sports Facing Prospect of World Cup Without Big Draw of USWNT

  • The USWNT play Sweden in the knockout round on Sunday at 5 a.m. ET.
  • After being pre-tournament favorites, the U.S. are struggling through three games.
Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

The USWNT head into this weekend’s Women’s World Cup Round of 16 match with its fate — and Fox Sports’ prospects for big viewership — highly uncertain.

After watching one win and two draws during group play, fans in the States will need to be awake at 5 a.m. ET on Sunday to see the Americans’ knockout-round clash with Sweden from Melbourne. Had the U.S. won Group E as projected, their first knockout game would have been against South Africa on Saturday at a much more favorable 10 p.m. ET.

After drawing more than 5 million viewers to Fox for each of their first two matches in prime time, Tuesday’s draw against Portugal at 3 a.m. ET delivered 1.35 million — which was enough to solidify the most-watched group stage ever on English-language TV with an average audience of 4.35 million.

The U.S. are still favored to beat Sweden but have fallen behind England and Spain in tournament betting markets. If they advance, the remaining three matches would take place between 3:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. ET.

Paying A High Price

Team USA members comprise 11 of the 15 highest-paid players at the Women’s World Cup. But the U.S. scored fewer goals than 10 other teams during the group stage — prompting an awkward back-and-forth with former USWNT captain Carli Lloyd, who is serving as an analyst for Fox during the tournament.

After Tuesday’s game and the resulting second-place group finish, Lloyd said, “I’m just not seeing that passion.” That prompted current USWNT captain Lindsey Horan to call Lloyd’s comments “frustrating,” explaining the team is trying to “keep the noise out as much as possible.”

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