For the first time since 2007, South American fútbol titans Brazil and Argentina will meet in the Copa América final this Saturday, in a game that could be the most-watched sports event of the year. Its reign could be short-lived, however, amid immediate competition from Sunday’s Euro 2020 final between Italy and England.
In Rio de Janeiro, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, six-time winner of the ballon d’Or, will face Brazilian star—and former teammate—Neymar Jr., the most expensive player in the history of soccer, in the final of this highly controversial, disputed and at times bizarre Copa America 2021.
The Copa America, the oldest-running international football tournament in the world since it debuted in Argentina in 1916, is also the third most-watched event, trailing behind only the World Cup and the Euro Cup.
This year’s games—broadcast in English on FOX Sports and in Spanish on Univision—averaged 980,000 viewers per game in the U.S., slightly more than the viewership of Euro 2020 on ESPN, which averaged 965,000 viewers during the tournament’s first 24 games, according to Deadline. Last Saturday’s Portugal-Germany game averaged 1.83 million viewers, making it the largest audience for a European Championship group stage match since 2016, and it ranks as the third most-viewed group stage match ever on ESPN networks and ABC since 2008.
These numbers, of course, are nowhere near the FIFA World Cup’s draws. The 2014 tournament attracted a total global television audience of 3.2 billion. According to FIFA, a total of 1.013 billion saw at least one minute of Germany’s 1-0 win over Argentina in extra time at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio.
The audience for the Euros is relatively small compared to the World Cup, but it is growing. ESPN data show that the quarterfinals averaged 2.02 million viewers, a 16% increase over 2016.
While Sunday’s Euro 2020 final weighs more in terms of advertising revenues, the prospect of Neymar vs. Messi in a Copa America final will be televised to billions around the world. After Neymar’s transfer from Santos to Barcelona in 2012, the South American stars celebrated many victories as club teammates until Neymar’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017; however, they have never faced off against each other in their national jerseys on the international stage.
Messi and his teammates have to work hard to bring the copa home against Neymar’s Brazil. The history between both teams slightly favors the seleçaõ, as Brazil’s national team is known. According to FIFA, Argentina and Brazil have played 105 times, with Brazil holding a 41-38 advantage all-time. The teams have played to a draw 26 times.
The Copa America final on Saturday is expected to break ratings records as soccer fans in the U.S. and around the globe hope to witness Messi to win his first international title with the Argentine national team. Whether this long-awaited final will top the ratings for Sunday’s Italy-England Euro 2020 title game is the million-dollar question for broadcasters and advertisers right now.