USWNT scores second-highest group stage ratings ever in opener vs. Vietnam

The USWNT got off to a solid start against Vietnam at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, as did its ratings.

Friday’s USA-Vietnam opener saw Fox average 5.26 million viewers with a peak of 6.55 million, the network announced Saturday. Those numbers are reportedly a 99% increase from the USWNT’s opener in the 2019 tournament and the second-highest ratings for any Women’s World Cup group stage game.

If you add in the one million viewers of the Spanish telecast on Telemundo, the average number goes up to 6.26 million.

The U.S. was universally expected to win the game in a blowout, which is pretty much what happened save for a few sloppy moments. The team won 3-0 while dominating the time of possession, but could have scored more. Vietnam, ranked the No. 32 team in the world and likely the weakest team the U.S. will face, got physical enough on defense that it created some problems.

Those ratings numbers are pretty impressive given a few reasons, including the quality of opponent. The timing of the game did it few favors, as it was held at 9 p.m. ET on a Friday night. This will be a recurring factor with viewership given the tournament is being held in the distant time zones of Australia and New Zealand.

United States' Sophia Smith, right, celebrates with United States' Crystal Dunn after scoring her side's 2nd goal during the Women's World Cup Group E soccer match between the United States and Vietnam at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, July 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga)

The USWNT had little drama against Vietnam. Next up: the Netherlands. (AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga)

Even on a Friday night, though, the game experienced strong counter-programming in the form of Lionel Messi’s MLS debut with Inter Miami. That game between Miami and Cruz Azul started less than an hour before the USWNT’s, and the Barcelona legend entered the game not long after the USWNT started playing.

The Messi game was locked behind the double paywall of Apple TV+ and the MLS Season Pass, but it still drew attention, especially when Messi hit a free-kick game-winner to start his U.S. career on a perfect note.

The USWNT will next face the Netherlands on Wednesday, again at 9 p.m. ET on Fox. After that, it’s Portugal on Aug. 1 at 3 a.m. ET. Don’t expect great numbers from that one.