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10 Most Popular Sports in USA

What is your favorite sport? After doing our research, we have found the most popular sports across the USA, and the most prominent athletes in each dedicated sport. Read on to find out whether your favorite sport is among the top US sports.

Sports, they have been around for as long as humans have. No seriously, sports date back 3000 years ago, the first Olympic games were held in 776 BCE. It’s no surprise then that even today, they make up the most contested topics. In fact, we watch or play sports more than anything else. From those after school activities right up through high school, college and then the big leagues, the USA has a deeply rooted fascination in loads of sports.

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America and Sports

Sport is an integral part of America. We can boldly say that because, with 2600+ medals (1,000+ gold, 800+ silver, and 700+ bronze), the United States of America has won the most medals at the Olympics to date. For us, it serves as a source of pride, cohesion, and excellence all while providing enjoyment.

A lot of sports are popular in the US. Here is a brief rundown of the percentage of the population that follows the 10 most popular sports in the US.

  1. American Football: 74.5%
  2. Basketball: 56.6%
  3. Baseball: 50.5%
  4. Boxing: 23.4%
  5. Hockey: 22.1%
  6. Soccer: 21.6%
  7. Golf: 19.7%
  8. MMA: 16.7%
  9. Tennis: 15.5%
  10. Motorsports: 14.6%

Instead of going into each sport individually, we thought it would be more fun and intriguing to compare the top sports in the US. It is the basis for long debates and there is loads to learn.

American Football (NFL) vs Basketball (NBA)

Popularity

With almost 70k people attending every single game in the 2022 NFL season, American football is arguably the most popular sport in the United States. Fun fact, it is also called gridiron football.

The game originated in 1869 from a combination of English rugby and soccer. Now while American Football has 74.5% of Americans following it, Basketball has over 30 million active players in the United States. Yes, you read that right! Basketball has more active players than what many consider America’s national sport. It isn’t that surprising though, because basketball is a game invented in America for Americans way back in 1891.

Major Leagues and Prominent Players

The American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) make up the National Football League (NFL), the premier professional league for American football. The National Football League (NFL) comprises 32 teams.

The National Football League season begins in September and continues through February when it ends with the Super Bowl. This event has consistently ranked as one of the most-watched sporting events in the entire world and is an integral part of the American culture.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the premier professional league for basketball, consisting of 30 teams divided into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. The National Basketball Association season begins in October and continues through June. At the end of the season await the NBA Finals.

Some of the most prominent players in American football include Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Lamar Jackson.

Some of the most prominent players in basketball include LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and James Harden.

Verdict

Both American football and basketball are very popular sports in the USA, but American football has a clear edge over basketball in terms of fan base, viewership, and revenue. However, basketball has a more global appeal and a more diverse talent pool within the US than American football.

Boxing (ABA) vs MMA (UFC)

Popularity

Boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) are both combat sports that involve striking and grappling techniques.

Boxing is more traditional and has a longer history than MMA, which is relatively new and evolving. Boxing is more popular than MMA in terms of the fan base with about 23.4% of Americans actively following Boxing compared to MMA’s 16.7%.

In terms of raw numbers, boxing generated 4.6 million PPV (pay-per-view) purchases for its top fight while MMA only generated 2.4 million. That being said, MMA is growing faster and attracting more attention from younger audiences and this shows on social media and Google Trends.

Major Leagues and Prominent Players

The American Boxing Association (ABA) is one of the major governing bodies for professional boxing in the USA. The ABA sanctions bouts and ranks fighters in various weight classes.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the leading promotion for professional MMA in the world, with other organizations such as Bellator MMA and ONE Championship also operating in the USA. The UFC organizes events and matches fighters in various weight classes.

Some of the most prominent players in boxing include Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury, and Anthony Joshua.

On the other hand, Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Jon Jones, Amanda Nunes, and Israel Adesanya make up the MMA lineup.

Verdict

Both boxing and MMA are thrilling, competitive sports that draw in a variety of spectators. Boxing is more prestigious and well-liked than MMA, but MMA offers more variety and innovation.

Golf vs Hockey

Popularity

Golf and hockey are both sports that require skill, precision, and endurance. Hockey is more popular in the United States with 22.1% of the population following the sport. That percentage is more than golf’s 19.7%.

That being said, the number of people who played Golf in 2022 dwarfs Hockey. At least 25.6 million people reportedly played golf at least once. That compares to 2.45 million for hockey.

Apparently, while more people watch hockey, more people would rather partake in the “rich man’s” game.”

Major Leagues and Prominent Players

The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour is the main organization for professional golfers in the USA and worldwide. It organizes tournaments throughout the year that feature some of the best golfers in the world competing for prizes and rankings.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is the main organization for professional ice hockey players in North America. It consists of 32 teams divided into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. The NHL season runs from October to June, culminating in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Some of the most prominent players in golf include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Brooks Koepka. Hockey fans love watching Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews.

Verdict

Golf and hockey are both challenging and enjoyable sports that attract different kinds of fans. Golf has more popularity and revenue than hockey, but hockey has more intensity and excitement than golf.

Baseball vs Soccer

Popularity

Baseball and soccer are both team sports that involve hitting a ball with a bat or a foot -obviously- respectively. You might find it a little surprising, but in the United States, baseball is more popular than soccer and has historically been America’s national sport.

Yes, the number one most played sport in the world with over 5 billion fans ranks 6th in the United States with only about 21.6% of the population following it.

Baseball is however the third most played sport with a staggering 50.5% of the population following.

Major Leagues and Prominent Players

Major League Baseball (MLB) is the main organization for professional baseball players in North America. It consists of 30 teams divided into two leagues. The American League (AL) and the National League (NL). The MLB season runs from April to October, culminating in the World Series, which is one of the oldest championships in sports.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is the main organization for professional soccer players in North America. It consists of 27 teams divided into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. The MLS season runs from March to November, culminating in the MLS Cup, which is one of the most attended soccer events in the world.

Some of the most prominent players in baseball include Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jacob deGrom, and Shohei Ohtani. Some of the most prominent players in soccer include Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., Kylian Mbappe, and Robert Lewandowski.

Verdict

Baseball and soccer are both popular team sports that have different appeals to fans. Baseball has more popularity and revenue than soccer in the USA, but soccer is the most popular sport globally. That last point makes soccer popular among betting fans.

Motorsports vs Tennis

Popularity

Up till now, we’ve focused on sports that have some level of similarity. But balls and automobiles!

Hear us out. They both involve speed, precision, and accuracy. Now in terms of outright numbers, more Americans follow tennis than motorsports (15.5% vs 14.6%). This is quite surprising considering how much Americans like their big ol’ V8s.

A possible reason for this could be because Americans tend to favor their homegrown car series like NASCAR and the Indy500 whereas big leagues like Formula One and MotoGP are more of a European thing.

Tennis on the other hand is a more global sport.

Major Leagues and Prominent Players

NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) is one of the main organizations for professional motorsports drivers in the USA and worldwide. It currently ranks as 2nd most popular motorsport in the world, behind only F1. In America, it’s number one. It organizes races throughout the year that feature some of the best drivers competing for points and championships.

The ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Tour is one of the main organizations for professional tennis players in the US and worldwide. It organizes tournaments throughout the year that feature some of the best players competing for rankings and titles.

  • Most prominent drivers in motorsports: Richard Petty, David Pearson, and Jeff Gordon.
  • Most prominent players in tennis: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Naomi Osaka.

Verdict

Motorsports and tennis are both thrilling and competitive sports in their own unique ways. Motorsports have more viewership and revenue than tennis, but tennis has more participation and diversity than motorsports in the USA.

FAQs

What is the #1 sport in America?

According to a survey by Statista, the #1 sport in America by viewership is American football. Half of the respondents stated that they watched NFL games on TV, while 17 percent watched NHL games. American football is also the most-watched sport in terms of TV ratings and attendance, as we will explain in this blog.

Is the NFL or NBA more popular?

The NFL is more popular than the NBA in terms of TV viewership and attendance. According to Statista, the most viewed sporting event of 2022 in the U.S. was by far Super Bowl 56 between the Rams and Bengals, which drew in nearly 100 million viewers. The second most-watched sporting event was the NFC Championship between the 49ers and the Rams, with around 50 million viewers on FOX. The top 50 most watched sporting events were dominated by NFL games in 2022. The NBA Finals between the Bucks and Suns, on the other hand, averaged only 9.9 million viewers per game. The NFL also has higher average attendance per game than the NBA, with 66,151 fans per game in 2021, compared to 17,141 fans per game for the NBA in 2020-21.

What are the most popular sports in America by viewers?

The most popular sports in America by viewers are American football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. American football has been the most watched sport in the country for over a decade, with 72% of Americans saying they are fans.

Is the NFL bigger than the NBA?

The NFL is bigger than the NBA in terms of revenue and value. According to Forbes, the NFL generated $16 billion in revenue in 2020, while the NBA generated $8.3 billion. The average value of an NFL team was $3.48 billion, while the average value of an NBA team was $2.4 billion.

Which sport is the oldest?

The oldest sport in America is lacrosse, which originated from a Native American game played by various tribes as early as the 12th century. The modern version of lacrosse was developed by French colonists in Canada in the 17th century and spread to the United States in the 18th century.

Which sport gets the most money?

The sport that gets the most money in America is American football, followed by baseball and basketball.

What sport is hardest to go pro in?

The sport that is hardest to go pro in depends on various factors, such as the number of players, teams, positions, scholarships, draft picks, and competition levels. However, the hardest sports to go pro in are often considered to be American football, ice hockey, basketball, soccer, and golf. These sports have a whole lot of competition, require great skills, and offer limited spots in professional leagues.