Sport has the ability to transcend nations and is a concept shared by billions of people all across the world. Some competitions and games stand out from others as they are iconic and are viewed all across the world. Here, we will look at the most watched sporting events and what makes them so special.
There are sporting events so big that people from all over the world stop whatever they are doing to watch. Any team or athlete that wins one of these events usually shoots to stardom and their name goes down in the annals of sporting history.
In this article, we breakdown some of the world’s most-watched sporting events and highlight what you need to know about each. The following sites stream most of these live, and also allow you to bet on them:
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#1. Tour de France
The Tour de France takes place each year and is widely regarded as one of the most grueling sporting events in the world.
Cycling’s most prestigious competition, the Tour de France lasts just over three weeks with the world’s best cyclists and teams battling it out for the coveted yellow jersey. First raced back in 1903, the race consists of different stages. With each stage lasting a day, there are 21 stages in total. The race specializes in all aspects of road cycling, with colored jerseys being awarded for the best young cyclist, best sprinter, and the King of the Mountains.
It is the Tour de France’s iconic mountain stages that often make for the most exciting drama. With the race participants often showing superhuman levels of stamina and endurance, the Tour de France is the most watched sporting event in the world with over 3.5 billion tuning into the 2022 edition of the race.
The Tour de France typically starts in the first week of July and is held every year. Many US sports betting sites will have markets dedicated to the race.
#2. Summer and Winter Olympic Games
First competed back in Ancient Greece, it was French Baron Pierre de Coubertin who revived the Olympic Games for a modern audience. Little did he know that over one hundred years later, both the Summer and Winter Olympics would turn into two of the most viewed sporting events in the world.
Originally a sporting event for amateurs, over the past few decades the Olympics has seen a rise in professionalism and some of the world’s most recognizable names from popular sports such as basketball, tennis, golf, and soccer are more than happy to represent their nations on the world’s biggest stage.
With both the Summer and Winter Olympics taking place once every four years, the relatively long wait between each edition has made the Olympics one of the most eagerly anticipated sporting events in the world.
The last four summer Olympics have seen well over 3 billion viewers across the world tuning into the action. Although not as popular as the summer games, the winter Olympics are slowly catching up, with 2 billion viewers tuning into the 2022 winter games – a record high.
With both Olympic programs containing some of the world’s most popular and viewed sports, the Olympics will continue to be one of the most popular sporting events in the world.
#3. FIFA World Cup
Soccer is the most popular sport on the planet and there is no bigger sporting event than the FIFA World Cup. In each edition of the World Cup, football fans from around the world ask the question, who will become the next world champion?
Uniting sports fans across the world, the FIFA World Cup brings together the game’s best national soccer teams for a feast of football that lasts just over a month. The tournament is structured into a group phase before sixteen teams qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament.
The sixteen teams that make the knockout stage, battle for the opportunity to reach the World Cup final. Viewed by many as the most prestigious tournament in soccer, the World Cup final is one of those rare occasions where the whole world stops to watch.
The 2022 World Cup sparked huge television ratings with 5 billion people watching the tournament, making it one of the most viewed sporting events in the world. The final itself ranked as one of the world’s most-watched sporting events with approximately 1.5 billion customers tuning into the big game.
#4. Cricket World Cup
When compiling a list of the most prestigious competitions, it would be amiss to not mention the Cricket World Cup.
Played all over the world, the first Cricket World Cup was held back in 1975 and is held every four years.
The 2019 Cricket World Cup was the competition’s most popular in terms of viewing figures. The 2019 final was watched by 1.6 billion people across 200 different territories from across the world.
The Cricket World Cup is due to be held in India with the hosts being the favorites for success.
#5. Super Bowl
The Super Bowl is the biggest annual sporting event in America. The biggest game in American Football, the Super Bowl is a showdown between the champions of the American Football Conference (AFC) and the champions of the National Football Conference (NFC).
Held in February each year, the Super Bowl is more than just a game and annually boosts huge viewing figures. The Super Bowl isn’t just confined to North Americans, over the last decade or so the Super Bowl has become one of the most watched sporting events in the world.
The 2022 Super Bowl saw 200 million people tune into the action with a further 56 million people watching from outside of the US.
NFL betting is huge in America and all of the best online sportsbooks have a wide range of NFL betting markets available. As such, football is one of the most profitable betting markets around. This comes as no surprise since American Football is also the most-watched sport in the US. In this season, the Kansas City Chiefs are the current favorites to lift the Super Bowl in 2024.
#6. NBA Finals
Following on from the Super Bowl, one of the most eagerly anticipated sporting events in America is the NBA Finals. Held every year across May and June, the NBA Finals pit the winners of the Eastern Conference basketball league against the winners of the Western Conference. The two teams battle it out for finals glory over a best of seven series.
The culmination of the NBA post-season, icons such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James have all cemented their legacies as some of the game’s best players due to their MVP performances in the Finals.
The NBA Finals come alive when it comes to people tuning in. The 2022 Finals saw an average of 15 million people watching each game, which represents a huge jump from the regular season which on average attracts just over a million viewers.
The Denver Nuggets have made their first-ever NBA finals and will be the favorites for victory when they face either the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics in game 1.
For decades, some of the highest-profile boxing bouts have been among some of the world’s most-watched sporting events. Bouts like the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and epic showdowns containing some of the greats such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, and Canelo Alvarez have attracted hundreds of millions of viewers from all across the world.
In a show of the sport’s ever-growing popularity, boxers can easily sell out some of the world’s biggest stadiums and venues and that popularity easily transcends into how many people watch.
The biggest commercial fight in boxing history was the 2015 clash between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. A showdown between two of the greatest fighters of their generation, it was estimated that over 4 million people bought the fight across the world. A PPV record that still stands to this day.
#8. Women’s World Cup
Women’s sport is on the rise. With more and more people attending live games, and new television deals being secured across many different women’s sporting events, it is the Women’s World Cup that has led the way when it comes to the most viewed women’s sporting event.
Like the men’s event, the Women’s World Cup takes place every four years and features national soccer teams. The most successful women’s team has been the USA who have won the tournament a record-breaking four times.
The last World Cup was held in France back in 2019 and achieved record levels of viewership. Over a billion viewers tuned into the tournament as a whole, with 250 million people tuning into the big game itself. Despite still trailing the men’s game, the 2019 viewing figures were double the figures achieved in the 2015 edition of the tournament.
#9. UEFA Champions League
Outside of the World Cup, one of the most prestigious competitions in soccer is the UEFA Champions League.
A yearly competition that features some of the best soccer teams from all around Europe, the Champions League Final is viewed as one of the biggest games in sport.
Giants of the game – Real Madrid, Liverpool, and AC Milan have all enjoyed huge success in the competition, and due to their popularity, the Champions League Final often results in huge viewing figures. The 2022 UEFA Champions League Final was played between Liverpool and Real Madrid and saw 380 million people watch across the globe. The viewing figures achieved in the final were three times as big as the Super Bowl.
The 2024 Champions League competition has just kicked off again for the season. Sportsbooks still have the usual suspects down to lift the trophy, with Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Barcelona favorites to win the tournament.
#10. Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is a tournament growing in popularity with each edition. Whilst it doesn’t have the history of the soccer World Cup, the Rugby World Cup is quickly becoming one of the most watched sporting events in the world.
Hosted every four years, the World Cup is rugby’s most prestigious tournament and features the game’s best national teams.
In a sign of its swelling popularity, it is estimated that 857 million people tuned into the 2019 tournament, which represents a 15% leap from the 2015 competition.
Most Watched Sporting Event in the World vs the USA
Despite the huge global appeal of many of the sporting events in our list above, there are other sports that are hugely popular within the USA and in other specific countries across the world.
The World Series is the biggest prize up for grabs in Baseball and often gets large portions of America watching every year. The journey to become World Series champs is long, with teams needing to battle it out across the grueling 162 game schedule as well as the playoffs.
The final of the World Series pits the winners of the American League and National League against one another. On average 13 million customers tuned in to watch the Houston Astros defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2022 World Series.
Another huge sporting event in America is the Stanley Cup. The most prestigious tournament in ice hockey, the Stanley Cup is the culmination of the hockey and sees the sixteen highest ranked teams from across the regular season compete in a series of knockout rounds. Each knockout round consists of seven matches until just two teams are left to contend for the Stanley Cup final.
Ice hockey is a hugely popular sport across both America and Canada with 1.5 million viewers tuning in to watch each game of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning.
In America, March can only mean one thing – March Madness. The name for basketball’s NCAA Finals, 68 teams compete in a single knockout tournament with the winners being crowned National Champions.
15 million viewers tuned in to watch the 2023 Men’s final between the Connecticut Huskies and the San Diego State Aztecs.
India is simply cricket mad and each season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) generates huge viewership figures. Stars such as Virat Kohli, M.S Dhoni, and Rohit Sharma are revered as sporting icons, and whenever they are in action, India is often watching.
The 2022 IPL was one of the most-watched sporting events of the year with 230 million people following the action.
FA Cup Final
One of the world’s oldest sporting events is the FA Cup. A knockout soccer tournament, the final is held at Wembley and usually contains hugely popular teams such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal.
The 2022 final between Chelsea and Liverpool attracted over 500 million viewers from all over the world.
How to Bet on the Most Watched Sporting Events
The betting markets for each sport are different, depending on the format of the sport, structure, and a lot of other factors. In sports such as soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and rugby, where there are individual games and the winner is determined by which team scores the most, the simplest bet is a moneyline wager. However, you can also try spread betting or bet on the number of goals/points scored through a totals bet. In racing sports, such as cycling, horse racing, or several Olympic sports competitions, you will have other types of betting markets.
If you want to get in on the action while a game is underway, then you can try live betting markets, where the odds are changing all the time to reflect what is happening in the game. The top US betting sites will not only cover all of these events, but also provide ample betting markets on each one, even offering props bets that relate to specific details of each event. If you do want to bet on any of these top events, you will find no shortage in betting options.
What is the most watched sporting event in the world?
The FIFA World Cup is often regarded as the biggest sporting event in the world. Held every four years, it showcases the game' s biggest stars on a huge global stage. It is estimated that over 5 billion people watched the 2022 tournament which is more than half of the world!
What is the most watched sporting event annually?
In 2022 the most watched sporting event was the Tour de France. Lasting just over three weeks and containing 21 stages, the Tour de France achieved over 3.5 billion viewers for the 2022 race.
Which sport has the most fans?
Due to soccer having many top class sporting leagues across the world, soccer is often regarded as the sport which has the most fans across the globe. In the States, football is the most popular sport, and the biggest event of each year is the Super Bowl.
What is the #1 sport in the world?
With the most fans, soccer is often regarded as the number one sport in the world. The last FIFA World Cup attracted a huge global viewership with over 5 billion viewers tuning into the action last December.
Where can I bet on the biggest sporting events?
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