Qatar and Ecuador kick off the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Sunday with arguably the world’s biggest sporting event. While it may not be the greatest event in sports — that honor goes to the Super Bowl, which bridges the gap between sports and entertainment like no other — the quadrennial FIFA World Cup is arguably the most watched competition in the world of sport.
Taking the Super Bowl as a benchmark reveals the extraordinary extent of the World Cup’s global appeal. According to FIFA, the average live TV audience for the 64 matches of the 2018 World Cup in Russia was 191 million. That’s far more than estimates for Super Bowl television audiences, which this year were just under 100 million in the United States plus an estimated 30-50 million worldwide. And we’re not talking about the World Cup final, but about each of the 64 matches played over the course of a month. The final comes on another level, as the 2018 match between France and Croatia attracted an average TV audience of 517 million people, with live coverage of the match reaching over 1 billion people in total.
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