American fans go wild for Euros

Almost twice as many Americans are watching soccer's European Championship compared to four years ago according to data released by tournament broadcaster ESPN.

 A Room In The Dwor Oliwski Hotel In Gdansk, Where The German National Football Team Will Be Based For The Euro 2012 AFP/Getty Images

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This picture taken on March 29, 2012 shows a room in the Dwor Oliwski hotel in Gdansk, where the German national football team will be based for the Euro 2012 football championships from June 8, 2012 to July 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

The 24 games in the group stage of Euro 2012 averaged just over one million viewers compared to 552,000 for Euro 2008 - the latest sign of the impressive growth of interest in international soccer in the U.S.

The most-watched match in the group stage was the 1-1 draw between Spain and Italy on Sunday, June 10 which pulled in an average audience of 2.113 million viewers, bigger than for any game four years ago except the final.

The quarter-finals begin on Thursday with the Czech Republic v Portugal but ESPN will hope for their biggest numbers so far at the weekend when Spain face France and England take on Italy.

The games from the tournament staged in Poland and Ukraine are being broadcast during the afternoon on the U.S. East Coast and the biggest audiences have been in New York and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

ESPN said figures for their digital and Spanish-language products had also risen sharply.

The network's coverage of the World Cup two years ago set new highs including a 15.5 million audience for the final between Spain and the Netherlands in South Africa.

The US has traditionally been one of the weakest markets for international soccer but the game is increasingly popular among a young demographic and in the growing Hispanic community.

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