Viva futbol! The 2014 FIFA World Cup, set to kick off Thursday in Brazil, is expected to be the most-social sporting event ever globally -- although the U.S., where the game is less popular than in the rest of the world, represents just a small fraction of the chatter.
Worldwide, this year's World Cup will surpass the Super Bowl and Olympics in total social mentions, according to a study by Adobe Systems. The phrase "World Cup" alone generated 19 million social mentions since June 2013 so far in 196 countries, scoring wider reach than the Super Bowl or Olympics.
The study analyzed pre-World Cup buzz and sentiment across social sites including Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. The global report looked at more than 69 million social mentions in 230 countries and territories related to the tournament's teams and players.
In the States, ABC/ESPN and Univision Communications will broadcast all 64 matches on various channels during the event, which runs June 12 to July 13. In addition, both programmers will stream every game online and to mobile devices, along with a complement of other original digital content.
SEE ALSO: 2014 World Cup: Full TV Schedule
The most-tweeted TV event of the 2013-14 television season was Super Bowl XLVIII on Fox, for which 15.3 million Twitter users saw a total of 1.8 billion tweets about the game and halftime show, according to Nielsen.
But while the World Cup may surpass those figures on a global basis, U.S. viewers will likely be just a small part of the conversation. Notwithstanding soccer's growing popularity in the country, only 7% of Americans say they plan to follow the 2014 soccer tourney closely, and two-thirds don't expect to tune in at all, according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey this spring.
Out of the pre-WC chatter, according to the Adobe study, the Asia-Pacific region is producing the most World Cup social buzz with 48% share. APAC is followed by Europe, the Middle East and Africa at 32% and the Americas with 20%.
Japan tops all countries with 37% of all mentions, beating out the U.K. (11%), Brazil (9%), Germany (8%) and U.S (8%). Germany has the highest social buzz as a percentage of total Twitter users (17%) in its country, followed by Japan (11%), Nigeria (8%), France (5%) and U.K. (5%), according to the Adobe study.
A different study in the U.K., meanwhile, found that 49% of British Twitter users plan to watch all the England matches during the World Cup. The study, from GlobalWebIndex, found that one in three U.K. Twitter users say they are more interested in the 2014 World Cup than they were in South Africa in 2010.
That level of excitement means that millions of fans will watch the games -- and many of them will be actively tweeting to celebrate the highs and lows of the onscreen action. GlobalWebIndex found that 87% of UK users will be watching the World Cup on live TV, and the vast majority (79%) will be doing so with others.
And anticipation for the tourney appears higher among millennials: In the U.S., nearly half of those aged 14-24 agreed that millennials are more engaged in the World Cup than older Americans, according to a survey conducted by MTV. Among those surveyed in the States, 43% believe Team USA will win the tournament -- an outcome considered a longshot.
Meanwhile, the World Cup social buzz leading up to the event has not been all positive: 42% of Brazilians have expressed sadness, anger or disgust related to the World Cup, according to the Adobe study.
Among soccer stars, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo -- who has 26.5 million followers on Twitter -- is the most-discussed player with 1.5 million mentions in May. He's followed by Brazil's Neymar with 1.2 million, per the Adobe study.
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