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Chris Zelkovich - The Star

There was a time, not all that long ago, when soccer was dismissed as a minor sport among Canadian couch potatoes, a diversion for immigrants and Euro-wannabes. If the 2010 World Cup has proved anything, other than solidifying the world ``vuvuzela" as an obscenity in some households, it's that soccer can no longer be denied a spot at the top of the Canadian sports interest charts.

(By the way, those defending the incessant vuvuzela horns as some African cultural thing have me wondering what other ``cultural" surprises may be in store for us: Poking people in the eye with sharp sticks?)

The new Canadian ratings system makes you wonder how big some of these events really are and claims that the 2010 World Cup ratings so far are triple the last one can't really be taken as gospel. But comparing these games to other big ratings calculated under the new system is a valid way to look at the picture.

Saturday's England-U.S. match drew an average of 2.275 million viewers to CBC. That compares with the good old Canadian standard, the Stanley Cup final, which drew 4 million viewers to CBC. Both were also broadcast on U.S. channels, so it's a pretty fair comparison.

Add in the fact that soccer was played on a Saturday afternoon, considered a ratings dead zone, and there's a pretty good case to be made that the game everybody else calls football is no longer a fringe sport. Oh yes, and this was a preliminary game.

It will be interesting to see how the final game does.

If you want to add in live streams, which averaged 250,000 a day through Sunday, you might make a case that the World Cup is as popular than the Stanley Cup.

That might be heresy, but the numbers are pretty impressive.

 Here are the top English-Canadian weekend sports ratings, according to BBM Canada overnight calculations:

1. World Cup, England vs. U.S., Sunday, CBC: 2,275,000*

2. World Cup, Germany vs. Australia, Sunday, CBC: 1,660,000

3. World Cup, Argentina vs. Nigeria, Saturday, CBC: 1,305,000

4. World Cup, Serbia vs. Ghana, Sunday, CBC: 1,212,000

5. World Cup, Italy vs. Paraguay, Monday, CBC: 1,136,000

6. World Cup: Uruguay vs. France, Friday, CBC: 1,010,000

7. World Cup: South Africa vs. Mexico, Friday, CBC: 906,000

8. World Cup: Japan vs. Cameroon, Monday, CBC: 637,000

9. World Cup: Korea vs. Greece, Saturday, CBC: 605,000

10. Auto racing: F1 Canadian Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 578,000

11. NBA: Lakers at Celtics, Sunday, TSN: 544,000*

12. World Cup: Algeria vs. Slovenia, Sunday, CBC: 513,000

13. World Cup: Netherlands vs. Denmark, Monday, CBC: 488,000

14. MLB: Blue Jays at Rockies, Saturday, Sportsnet: 482,000

15. Auto racing: NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN: 414,000

* Viewers on U.S. channels not included

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