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Landon Donovan goal: Will it bring more marketing power to US soccer?

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Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

(Read caption) Landon Donovan goal aftermath: The US national soccer team celebrates after the final minute game-winning goal against Algeria in Pretoria June 23. Record US audiences have tuned into World Cup 2010, but whether marketing dollars will continue to follow soccer in the US after the Cup is unlikely.

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The Landon Donovan goal 91 minutes into the US-Algeria World Cup game Wednesday made history, allowing the Americans to finish at the top of their group for the first time in 80 years.

US viewership of the World Cup has also reached historic highs.

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Nearly 17 million Americans tuned in to the first US match versus England this year, which aired on ABC and Univision, the most ever for a first round World Cup match.

Friday’s US vs. Slovenia game was the most-watched soccer game in the history of ESPN networks – almost 4 million Americans tuned in to the game, even though 10 a.m. Eastern time. Overall, the World Cup audience for the cable sports network is up 60 percent over 2006 viewership.

The numbers almost halfway into the month-long tournament are impressive, and for advertisers, who've invested tens of millions for World Cup sponsorship and international marketing campaigns, they’re crucial. But will the high ratings continue to bring US marketing dollars to soccer, even after the Cup’s final game on July 11?

“It’s really difficult to guess that this is going to be some sort of event that boosts soccer to the next level in the US,” says Bill Gorman, who runs the site and has been following World Cup ratings.

“History has indicated that that’s not going to happen,” said Mr. Gorman. “My entire life I’ve heard that soccer was the next big thing – my guess is it’ll be the next big thing long after I’m gone.”

Aside from Americans’ general lack of interest in soccer , Gorman points to another recent television sports event that didn’t live up to its hype. Although millions tuned in to watch the US hockey team in the recent Vancouver winter Olympics, viewership for NHL games didn’t see a significant bump as a result, even immediately after the games.

While it’s difficult to guess if the marketing power of US soccer will swell after the Cup, one economic impact is, perhaps, a safer bet – decreased productivity as Americans (in the millions) tune in watch to the daytime weekday games and check stats online. Has your office been distracted since the start of the Cup?

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