BLOG | by Lance Fraenkel

Americans not caught up in FIFA World Cup fever – but those that tried it, liked it

Now that the FIFA World Cup is well and truly over, we wanted to take a look at the tournament’s reception among audiences in its 2026 co-host, America.

The USA’s national team didn’t qualify for the Russia edition and, as we noted in this piece, the number of people intending to watch the tournament took a hit as a result. Our data told us that 26% of Americans were less interested in the 2018 World Cup than they were in the 2014 version.

But saying and doing are quite different things so, now that the World Cup has wrapped, let’s look at a couple of cuts of data to see how many Americans actually succumbed to World Cup fever.

First of all, our data tells us that there was plenty of engagement around the event. Buzz around the World Cup (our net score of whether respondents have heard something positive or negative about an event) more than doubled over the course of the tournament. And as you can see, compared to other nations (including those whose teams qualified), Buzz showed a healthy uplift.

As you can also see below, Buzz (how respondents are interpreting recent coverage about the event) also translates into an increase in our Word of Mouth metric.  Word of Mouth measures engagement, tracking actual conversations people have had about an event. But while there was an uplift in Word of Mouth in the US, it wasn’t as strong as in other nations.  This tells us that the tournament still had trouble breaking through on a national scale amongst Americans.

Having said that, engagement in the World Cup was more robust than Major League Soccer, indicating that the international tournament offers a significantly wider appeal than the domestic league – an effect we would expect to see across the world.

So, although this was commonly agreed to be one of the best World Cups in recent memory, the data suggests that most Americans have yet to catch-on. Before the tournament, 18% of the general public told us they were interested in the World Cup. After the tournament? Nineteen percent – within the margin of error.

But all is not lost for soccer’s international federation. Among those who watched a game, interest in the tournament increased from 65% to 77%. If FIFA can just get people to tune in to a game, it feels that there could be plenty of would-be converts to the soccer cause.

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LANCE FRAENKEL
Vice President, US
Head of Data Products
+1 646-537-9811

Lance joined SMG Insight in 2017 as Vice President for North America. Having previously worked for YouGov, Lance has over ten years’ experience in the market research products industry, beginning as an analyst within the consumer division and advancing to the role of Head of Client Management for North America. Lance has successfully developed talent and led large cross-functional teams, consulting with a broad range of clients including Google, NBC, VISA, Bank of America, Omnicom Media Group and Twitter. Lance is a graduate of New York’s Cornell University.

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