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U.S.-Portugal Match Breaks Ratings Record With Staggering Viewership Numbers

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CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 22: Fans in Grant Park celebrate a goal by the U.S. against Portugal in a Group G World Cup soccer match on June 22, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Fans were turned away from the free event after a 10,000-person capacity was reached. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) | Scott Olson via Getty Images

All eyes may not have been on the thrilling U.S. vs. Portugal World Cup match Sunday -- but a record number of them were watching.

The Group G match became the most-viewed soccer game in U.S. history, drawing a record-breaking 18.2 million viewers on ESPN, according to Nielsen fast-nationals.

The 18.2 million viewers (a 9.6 U.S. Nielsen rating) eclipsed the record previously set in 1999 by the Women's World Cup final between the USA and China where 17.9 million viewers tuned in to watch on ABC.

The match was also a huge win for Spanish-language channel Univision, which has been simulcasting World Cup matches with ESPN:

Compared to other major ESPN broadcasts, Sunday's game became "easily the most-watched non-[American] football sporting event in cable TV history," according to Sports Media Watch. The top five markets with the highest game viewership were Washington, DC, Columbus, Ohio, New York, Boston and the Hartford and New Haven, Forbes reports.

Americans have been falling in love with soccer this World Cup, notes The New Yorker. In Chicago, home of the U.S. Soccer Federation, an estimated 20,000 fans packed into Grant Park to watch Sunday's game with many turned away when the park reached capacity before kickoff.

With no teams yet eliminated in Group G, known as this World Cup's "Group of Death," the stakes remain high for the remaining matches when all four teams (Portugal vs. Ghana and USA vs. Germany) face off on Thursday.

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