Team USA's affect on TV, social media and Google undeniably massive

Team USA and the World Cup have upped the game in terms of Internet and TV impact. (USATSI)

The overall interest in American soccer has obviously bounded beyond what pretty much anyone expected heading into this World Cup. It's been amazing to watch bloom in such bountiful and mammoth ways. The power of sport and community remains astounding.

I mean, sure it was expected that United States fans would show as much interest as ever -- the increased overall interest in soccer has been clear since the 2010 World Cup -- but to the point where NFL stadiums are filling up with tens of thousands of fans in the middle of a Tuesday? It's been incredible.

There are many ways to measure interest. The impressive TV ratings, which have been setting records, is the go-to. But even those are skewed lower than they should be, considering, again, this:

Just bonkers. And you can't account for everyone watching when literally millions are in stadiums, parks, open-area view parties and thousands of bars from Hawaii to Maine and the 48 between.

Another way to see how interest has spiked: online searches and conversation. We've already seen reports that show the World Cup easily gets more mentions than the Super Bowl. Then you come across stuff like this -- the USA game vs. Portugal, as seen through Twitter activity -- and it's mesmerizing.

In wake of the 2-1 elimination outcome on Tuesday, Google, which has done a dutiful job making it easy to track trends and search queries for all things Cup, released some overall stats per its metrics.

Is it a good sign that getting knocked out in the Round of 16 left little disappointed? How about the Belgians being more down after a win?!

I'm thinking: If the U.S. makes the 2018 World Cup, then moves on to the final 16 again and gets knocked out, that negative factor will be much higher. First comes newness, then expectation. And it looks like American soccer fans -- new and old -- are eager, perhaps greedy, to want more ASAP.

What's uplifting: Tim Howard remains an American sports hero, even in defeat. That's clear. His play and impact were massive throughout the cup, but Tuesday's display was an all-timer. His 16 saves set a single-match World Cup record. Have you seen the superloop of each and every one of his stymies? Via Deadspin's Tim Burke:

This world-class performance in the box led to a search-engine spike of 144 times what Tim Howard normally receives. And Google reports Team USA earned "81 percent of the world’s attention," which amounts to search terms. 

A lot of this may seem like unnatural research or echo-chamber data to those who are still getting used to the World Cup ... but it's also a growing social media culture as well. People are enjoying and interacting with sporting events on their phones, on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook more and more by the month. This is in healthy part how we will experience and track the sports sand events that matter going forward.

In terms of location, time of games, the current digital era and the way Team USA played, this was a marrying of modern metrics and the modern sports viewing culture. It came at the perfect time.

Now we wait and see how the United States follows both the rest of this Cup and the sport overall over the next few years. A dip in interesting, conversation and viewing is to be expected, but it seems impossible we're ever going back to a place where soccer is inessential.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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