Football (soccer) has a global appeal. It is the most popular sport in the world, and its popularity is still increasing. Also, football is the number one sport in many countries.
Across the globe, there are football rivalries between clubs and countries. This rivalry excites fans worldwide to turn on the live broadcasts to witness the actions happening on the pitch.
Furthermore, in recent years, football has attracted more audiences due to the availability of various modern digital platforms.
It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many people watch matches due to a lack of accurate data from most countries — especially in the third world.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the top 10 most watched football matches in the world.
1. FIFA World Cup Final
Unsurprisingly, the most watched football match on the planet is the FIFA World Cup final.
The World Cup takes place every four years and features teams from 32 countries.
More than any other sporting event, it brings people together.
You can hardly find any other event that unites people than football’s premier tournament.
According to FIFA, over 3.5 billion viewers watched the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Furthermore, the final match drew the most viewers, as 516.6 million people tuned in to witness France beat Croatia 4-2 to become world champions.
The number of viewers will surely even be higher than reported, because many used digital channels to watch games.
The last 5 editions of the FIFA World Cup drew a total of more than four billion viewers.
The 2022 World Cup final between France and Argentina had the highest ever number of viewers for a sports event, with a whopping 1.5 billion viewers.
2. UEFA Champions League Final
The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious club football competition in the world. Europe’s best football club competes in it.
Viewers around the world are able to see the best players in the world, like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, etc., in action.
The competition has always been prestigious, but it has immensely grown in popularity in the past two decades.
The Champions League final is the most watched club football match in the world, and rightfully so because it is the pinnacle of club football in Europe.
In 2018, the UEFA Champions League final in Kyiv officially attracted a record 380 million viewers from over 200 countries.
3. Euros Final
Some of the most powerful football teams in the world (both at club and international levels) are from Europe.
So it is not surprising that the final of Europe’s continental tournament attracts audience almost like the FIFA World Cup final.
It was estimated that a record 600 million people watched the final of the European Championship between France and Portugal in 2016. Some attributed this to the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The final of EURO 2020 between England and Italy was ranked among the most viewed moments of all time.
According to UEFA, it was officially watched by 328 million fans in 229 countries — with the cumulative live match audience reaching 5.23 billion.
Furthermore, the final of EURO 2020 was the most-watched TV event in the United Kingdom in 24 years and in Italy since 2012.
The match set all-time streaming records for any type of programming in both countries.
4. Manchester Derby
The Manchester Derby is played between English city rivals Manchester City and Manchester United.
Recently, this match has emerged as the most watched football game in the world — eclipsing the Spanish El Clásico.
The importance of the Manchester derby rose significantly in the last decade, as City emerged as a powerhouse domestically and on the continent.
This match is broadcasted to almost a billion people in 189 countries — as Manchester United is one of the most supported clubs in the world.
5. El Clásico
Arguably the most exciting league match in world football, the El Clásico is contested between Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Dating back more than a century, the rivalry between both clubs is one of the oldest in world football.
Many legendary players have represented both clubs: such as Diego Maradona, Ronaldo de Lima, Johan Cruyff, Alfredo Di Stefano, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Zinedine Zidane, Raul, etc, as well as the two best players of the current generation — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
So important is the El Clasico that it sometimes decides the La Liga title race.
It is watched by millions worldwide. About 400 to 500 million people usually watch the El Clasico.
But in recent years, its viewership has decreased, majorly because of the departure of both Ronaldo and Messi, as well as the fact that the match is losing its appeal.
6. Northwest Derby
The Northwest Derby is a high-profile inter-city rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United.
It is considered the biggest fixture in English football and one of the biggest and fiercest rivalries in world football.
Players, fans, and the media consider the fixture between the two clubs to be their biggest rivalry — even above local derbies, with Everton and Manchester City, respectively.
Moreso, both Liverpool and Manchester United are the two most successful English clubs, and the Northwest Derby sees them battle each other.
This fixture can sometimes attract has many as 700 million viewers around the world.
7. Milan Derby
Regarded as the biggest football match in Italy, the Milan derby is contested between city rivals: AC Milan and Inter Milan.
Both clubs also share the same home ground (San Siro), but this doesn’t tone down the fierceness of the derby.
In 2017, the Milan derby was watched by a record number of viewers of over 860 million worldwide.
This was because of Inter’s Chinese owners who persuaded the league authorities to schedule the match in a convenient time for viewers from China — the most populated country in the world.
8. Der Klassiker
The biggest football match in the Bundesliga and in Germany. The Der Klassiker is played between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund — two of the most successful clubs in Germany.
The match attracts fans around the globe as it is always exciting and sometimes determines the league title.
The der Klassiker is the most watched fixture in German football and often registers record views.
The last decade have seen the importance of this match rise to a whole new level, with Dortmund challenging Bayern for the title (won 2) and the best players.
With the Bundesliga getting broadcast in more countries in recent years, the Klassiker gets watched by millions of people in over 200 nations around the world.
9. Derby d’Italia
The Derby d’Italia sees two Italian giants, Inter Milan and Juventus, face off against each other. It may come as a surprise to many, but this Serie A clash is one of the most watched club football match in the world.
It is one of the most tightly-contested and entertaining matches in the Serie A.
In 2021, the Derby d’Italia was shown in more than 200 countries around the world — from the Maldives to Kazakhstan — as around 650 million viewers saw the game.
10. AFCON Final
The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is a biennial football tournament where national teams in Africa compete for the continental title.
Established in 1957, AFCON gives African football teams the chance to compete in a well-recognized tournament that is broadcast across the continent and globally.
A record of over 800 million people tuned in to watch the 2019 AFCON on beIN SPORTS alone. The final itself saw over 90 million viewers tune in to the channel.
The 2021 AFCON, played earlier this year, was watched by millions of fans in 157 countries.
According to CAF, the hashtag #AFCON2021 curated more than 1 billion video views on TikTok, 900 million impressions across other social media channels, and 2.8 million hours of watch time on YouTube.
Even though many have downplayed the importance of the AFCON, many viewers around the world (especially from Asia — mostly Arabs) tune in to watch.