Somebody’s Still Watching International Soccer. Quite A Lot, Actually

Sure, it was a really slow Thursday night for broadcasters , and as the South Florida post-season runs at NBA and NHL titles had ended, from their respective networks’ stakes prematurely, there was an unexpected void in the TV landscape.  Still, I was surprised when I saw this headlines appear in my inbox, courtesy of the storied Son of The Bronx, Programming Insider’s Douglas Pucci:

Thursday Ratings: Univision Leads in Key Demos with CONCACAF Nations League Soccer

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Yes, the ONLY program on U.S. television, on any language, to attract more than 1 million adult viewers was a semifinal match in this otherwise secondary tournament, played mere months after the men’s World Cup and nearly three years in advance of the next iteration.  And that was nearly half of the total number of viewers (2.286 million that this matchup attracted, an enviable young adult concentration for any content).

Now this isn’t the first time that Univision has managed to beat all English language competitors in the summer, particularly since younger Spanish-speakers watch more television in general.  Typically, that happens when there’s a higher-profile event such as an awards show or a concluding episodes of a telenovela.  But when you take a closer look at the backstory surrounding this event, it’s obvious this had similar touchpoints to draw its audience in.

For one, it was an arch-rivalry match between the USA Men’s National Team and Mexico’s “El Tri”.  A muy grande rivalry, especially as they anticipate co-hosting the 2026 World Cup.  One that El Tri has tended to dominate.  But as Seth Vertleney of Pro Soccer Wire explained, that’s no longer the case:

The rivalry between the U.S. men’s national team and Mexico has gone though many stages over the years, but it’s never been more lopsided in favor of the Stars and Stripes than it is at this very moment.

The USMNT overwhelmed Mexico on Thursday night in Las Vegas, defeating an awful El Tri 3-0 in a heated CONCACAF Nations League semifinal.

It was the sixth straight game without defeat for the USMNT against Mexico, equaling the longest streak in program history. Right now, it’s hard to see where Mexico’s next win against its biggest rival is going to come from.

But for as compelling as the on-the-pitch storyline is, it’s the drama behind the scenes that was unfolding as this was being played that got equal billing.  Because the coach who engineered this big win is an interim one, and was about to be replaced by the guy who only a few months earlier had been relieved of his duties.  Per CNN:

Gregg Berhalter will return as head coach of the US Men’s National Soccer Team, US Soccer announced Friday. His new contract will run through the conclusion of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, to be hosted jointly by the US, Canada and Mexico.

Berhalter was named head coach of the USMNT in 2018 and led the squad to the knockout stage of the World Cup in Qatar last year, but his contract expired at the conclusion of the tournament in December.

In January, US Soccer announced it had commissioned an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct against Berhalter.

Berhalter was cleared by US Soccer in March following the completion of the investigation, which acknowledged an incident of domestic violence between Berhalter and his then-girlfriend, Rosalind, in 1992. Berhalter, who is now married to Rosalind, has previously acknowledged the incident when they were freshman at the University of North Carolina.

Investigators determined the incident was an isolated event with no evidence of similar conduct since. The investigation concluded the details of the 1992 incident do not create legal risks that would prevent an employer from hiring Berhalter.

BJ Callaghan will continue to coach the team tonight, when the USA MNT will take on Canada’s in a showdown that will complete the round-robin among the ’26 Cup co-hosts, the night after Las Vegas closed down the strip for a ticker tape parade to salute the Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights.  So the traffic surrounding Allegiant Stadium will be a bit less crazed than it was less than 24 hours ago.

But inside, the energy should be enhanced and, to a Father’s Day viewing audience seeking something besides golf, there will be an intriguing amount of drama unfolding.

On a night where 60 MINUTES is airing, and when tonight’s match will be airing on Univision’s lesser-viewed TUDN secondary channel, I doubt Pucci will have any headline like the one that surprised me yesterday morning,  But I do know I’ll be paying attention to who wins, and how much the players are responding to a lame duck coach.

And, apparently, a lot more people that I had first estimated as well.  I’d like to know a few of them. Maybe they might have a real lead on a paying gig?  Ideally, in Las Vegas?


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