- Published in From the Desk of the Chairman
What are the most popular sports in the United States?
Ranking the Top 5 Sports in the United States
The United States being a sports-obsessed country surprises no one. Americans love their sports, especially if they get to drink and eat snacks while watching.
Grandstands are nearly always full for the popular professional leagues, while many elite colleges even sell out their arenas while playing games throughout the year.
With online sports betting also legalized in many parts of the country, the nation’s fascination with competitive sports is only likely to get more frenzied.
The love of sports in America has not changed much in the past few decades, but popular sports are slightly different. While dominant sports such as American football are here to stay, some sports have risen up the rankings and captured the hearts of Americans in recent years.
Below is our rundown of the top five sports in the United States.
1. American Football
No game has a deeper meaning in American culture than American football, which was invented and is mostly played in the United States. When you talk with any person on the street in any part of the USA, you can likely get them talking about their favorite football team if you steer the conversation in that direction.
The National Football League regularly has better TV viewership numbers compared to other sports on this list. This shows that even when Americans are not attending football games in person, they watch at home.
Aside from the professional league, college football is also a phenomenon in the United States. Colleges can regularly sell out huge stadiums of 30,000 or 40,000 people, while they even get TV viewership numbers in the millions for big games.
Another sport that is huge in the United States is baseball. Slightly more popular around the world compared to American football, baseball is still predominantly seen as an American sport. Around half of all Americans have a favorite baseball team, even if all of them are not watching regularly.
One of the reasons why baseball has always remained so popular in America, even in an era of decreased attention spans, is because of its part in the country’s culture. Going to a baseball game is not about watching the sport, but about having a day out with friends or family at a wonderful stadium in a great part of your city.
College baseball is not on the same level as college football in terms of popularity, but ratings for MLB baseball games do compare with NFL football, depending on the time of the year and who is playing. Betting stats also show that similar numbers of wagers are placed on baseball games, as compared to American football matches.
The sport of basketball is in an interesting position in the United States. There is huge money in the league, with the top players such as LeBron James making a fortune on and off the court.
Stadiums are usually full, and there is a lot of attention on college basketball as well. The issue for basketball is that despite having a lot of money in the sport and a great deal of popular cultural relevance, its TV ratings are not on par with football or baseball.
Around a quarter of Americans say they play basketball semi-regularly, but the issue is that most of them are not watching most weeks. One of the reasons that basketball may not get the TV ratings of other sports is that there are so many regular season and playoff games that it can feel overwhelming for fans.
While MMA is clipping at the heels of boxing through its popular UFC league, the sport is still hugely popular in the United States. Top athletes of the past, such as Mohammed Ali, are national icons. Even modern stars, like Floyd Mayweather, are well-known and extremely successful because of the sport.
Boxing does have more of a niche audience, compared to the other sports on this list, but that audience is very passionate. Boxing fans not only know a great deal about the history of the sport, but they are willing to pay good money to watch their favorite boxers compete, both in person and on television.
A surprise appearance on this list, soccer has risen in popularity in the United States in the past decade. While the beautiful game is legendary worldwide, it does not always get the same recognition or appreciation stateside.
That is changing with the latest generation of sports fans in America, with many now tuning in to watch European soccer leagues such as the English Premier League and Spanish La Liga. Competitions such as the men’s and women’s World Cup have also contributed to the sport’s increased presence in the United States.
With America set to be one of the hosts for the 2026 World Cup, soccer may even grab a fourth spot on this list in a few years.