Most Popular Sports in the USA

Sports hold a fundamental place in American culture and are celebrated for more than just entertainment. They are seen as a source of community, pride, and the pursuit of excellence.

The United States has a remarkable history of success in the Olympics, having won the most medals.

In this context, it’s worth noting that the sports market in the United States is incredibly prosperous, with a substantial market value of $69 billion, making it the world’s most lucrative.

Determining the most popular sports in America involves considering various factors.

Despite cricket being one of the most well-known sports globally, it doesn’t claim the top spot in terms of viewership in the United States.

Furthermore, it’s essential to clarify the terminology, as what some call a white ball, Americans refer to as a football.

So, let’s delve into the top 10 most popular sports in the USA, taking into account these cultural nuances and factors that shape sporting preferences.

Below is the list of the top 10 most popular sports in the USA:

Sr. No.Sports
1American Football
5Ice Hockey
10WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)

Below are the details of the top 10 most popular sports in the USA:

1. American Football:

American Football is one of the most popular sports in the USA. Its roots can be traced back to the influence of Rugby and soccer, which evolved into the unique sport of American football in the US.

A historic milestone in its history occurred on November 6, 1869, when the first documented American football game was played.

The National Football League (NFL) stands as one of the preeminent and widely recognized sports associations in the United States.

It boasts a massive and devoted fan base that transcends geographical boundaries and spans multiple generations.

According to a survey conducted by, an impressive 37% of adults in the United States consider football their preferred sporting event.

The Super Bowl, the NFL’s championship game, is not just a national event but also one of the most-watched club sporting events worldwide.

This annual spectacle garners immense global attention. The NFL’s financial prowess is equally staggering, with an estimated annual income of approximately $15 billion, making it the most financially significant sports association on the planet.

However, it’s important to note that while American Football enjoys unparalleled popularity within the United States, it has not achieved the same level of recognition internationally as other American sports like baseball or basketball.

It remains primarily an American phenomenon, with its cultural impact firmly rooted in the country’s sporting landscape.

2. Basketball: 

Basketball is a sport that captivates fans with its dynamic and thrilling elements, including impressive movements, charges, dribbles, passes, layoffs, blocks, free throws, and dunks.

It’s no surprise that basketball is one of the most popular sports in the USA, with a significant portion of the population embracing the game. A remarkable 61% of sports fans in the United States have a fondness for basketball.

This translates to over 121 million fans, making a substantial contribution to the global tally of approximately two billion basketball enthusiasts.

Basketball holds a special place in the hearts of Americans, with around eleven per cent of the population, or 37 million people, declaring it as their favourite sport.

This fervent following was particularly evident during the 2016 NBA Finals Game Seven, which drew an impressive 31 million viewers.

The popularity of basketball is further underscored by television viewership figures. In 2021, ESPN averaged 1.44 million viewers across twelve games, while the 2022 NBA Finals recorded an average of 12.4 million viewers in the United States.

Beyond being spectators, Americans actively engage with basketball at various levels, from high school and collegiate to the professional ranks.

An astounding number of over 27 million individuals aged six years and above participated in playing basketball in 2020 and 2021.

In essence, basketball’s electrifying gameplay and widespread appeal have firmly established it as one of the most beloved and popular sports in the United States, attracting millions of fans and participants across the country.

3. Baseball: 

Baseball holds a special place in American sports history and is one of the most popular sports in the USA.

It stands out as the nation’s first professional sport, and its enduring popularity continues to resonate with the American people.

Major League Baseball (MLB) enjoys a significant preference among Americans, often surpassing the popularity of the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The roots of professional baseball in America reach back into the distant past, firmly establishing it as part of the nation’s cultural fabric.

Unlike some other countries with centuries of history, the United States is a relatively young nation. This lack of deep historical roots in many aspects of culture contributes to the enduring appeal of baseball, which has been a constant presence for over a century.

Despite experiencing a decline in popularity and lower television ratings compared to its peak in the 1990s, baseball remains one of the most cherished and tranquil sports to watch in the United States.

It offers a unique blend of tradition, strategy, and a leisurely pace that sets it apart from more fast-paced and modern sports.

For many, watching a baseball game is a serene and enjoyable experience that connects them to the rich history and enduring charm of this quintessentially American sport.

4. Soccer:

Soccer, known as football in many parts of the world, holds the distinction of being the fourth most popular sports in the USA, following American football, baseball, and basketball.

Recent surveys conducted in the United States indicate that soccer has surpassed ice hockey in popularity, signifying a growing interest in the sport.

One notable trend in the United States is the increasing appeal of soccer among young people, with soccer becoming the “first choice” sport for many of them. This growing enthusiasm among the youth is a promising sign for the future of soccer in the country.

High school soccer has seen remarkable growth, with a substantial 32% increase in participation between 2002 and 2019.

The success of the women’s national soccer team has also contributed to the sport’s popularity. The U.S. women’s national soccer team is widely recognized as the best in the world, having secured four Women’s World Cup titles in 1991, 1999, 2015, and 2019.

As an indicator of its popularity, there are approximately 4.2 million registered football and soccer players in the United States, highlighting the widespread engagement and involvement in the sport at various levels.

This growth in soccer’s popularity showcases its potential to become an even more prominent sport in the United States in the years to come.

5. Ice Hockey:

Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in the USA, although it’s often referred to simply as “hockey.” The roots of hockey in the country can be traced back to 1894, and it remains particularly popular in regions like the upper Midwest and the northeastern United States.

In the National Hockey League (NHL), there are a total of 25 American teams and 7 Canadian teams, all vying for the prestigious Stanley Cup.

In the past few decades, the NHL has expanded its presence into the southern regions of the United States, reflecting the growing popularity of the sport beyond its traditional strongholds.

Ice hockey has amassed a sizable following in the United States, thanks to its fast-paced, thrilling, and action-packed nature.

Even though the NHL has faced challenges with declining viewership in recent years, it still attracts millions of dedicated fans, underscoring the enduring appeal of the sport.

6. Tennis:

Tennis, often characterised by intense rallies and the artful smashing of the ball against the racket, is not merely a leisure game in the United States but a thriving industry that draws in a substantial community of enthusiasts.

Over 20 million participants actively engage in the sport, relishing both the excitement of tennis events and the physical benefits of playing the game to stay fit.

Tennis, despite being among the most popular sports in the USA with a history, has not lost its appeal among the current generation.

The numbers show a significant increase in participation, with 21.64 million people engaging in the sport in 2020, up from 17.7 million participants in the 2010s. This rise in popularity underscores the enduring charm of tennis among Americans.

While many actively take to the courts to play tennis, a considerable portion of the population also enjoys the sport as spectators.

Tennis events are a source of entertainment, and it’s no surprise that an average of 1.28 million people tuned in to watch the complete U.S.

Open, with broadcasts across ESPN and ESPN2. This viewership figure demonstrates the strong viewership base for tennis in the United States.

7. Golf:

Golf is one of the most popular sports in the USA, attracting the participation of more than 24 million people.

While golf has its share of American players who have achieved international stardom, such as the legendary Jack Nicklaus, who is often hailed as one of the greatest golfers of all time, it is primarily considered a leisurely pastime in the country.

One of the unique aspects of golf’s popularity in the United States is its social dimension. Many Americans view golf as an opportunity not only to engage in the sport but also to socialise.

It provides a relaxed environment where golfers can discuss business matters or reconnect with old friends while taking breaks between their shots.

Unlike the noisy and crowded stadiums of other sports, golf is played in serene settings surrounded by lakes, ponds, trees, and lush landscapes. This tranquil backdrop allows golfers to enjoy their game in a peaceful and aesthetically pleasing environment.

In essence, golf serves as a popular recreational activity in the United States, cherished not only for the sport itself but also for the social connections and the serene, natural settings it offers to its enthusiasts.

8. Boxing:

Boxing has a rich history in the United States, dating back to the 19th century. It was introduced to the country from Britain in the late 1700s, and by the 1800s, it had gained significant popularity, particularly in major urban centres like Boston, New York City, and New Orleans.

In 1946, the establishment of the International Amateur Boxing Association marked an important development in the sport’s global recognition.

Boxing played a significant role in the rise of African-American athletes in sports and their broader contributions to the fight against racism in the United States.

Over the years, boxing has remained among the most popular sports in the USA, also an influence in the country, with a strong following and a storied history of legendary fighters who have captured the hearts of fans and made indelible marks on the sport’s legacy in the United States.

9. Motorsports:

Motorsports is in ninth position among the most popular sports in the USA. Motorsports have undeniably garnered a dedicated following in the United States, with occasional events drawing substantial crowds.

Currently, there are approximately 15 million motorsport fans in the country, showcasing the significant popularity of this genre of racing.

In recent years, motorsports have risen in prominence among professional sports in the United States.

However, it’s worth noting that Formula One, which is the world’s most popular motorsport, has not reached the same level of popularity within the United States as it has in other parts of the world.

An interesting addition to the American motorsport landscape is Formula Drift, also known as Formula D, which made its debut in the 2004 season.

This unique form of motorsport has gained traction and now boasts a strong presence in the United States.

Formula Drift has become renowned for its thrilling drifting competitions, attracting 60 drivers who compete in the Master and Genius 2 categories. It is considered one of the premier professional drifting championship series in North America.

Overall, motorsports have carved out a significant niche in the American sports scene, drawing a dedicated fan base and providing exciting and diverse racing experiences for enthusiasts across the country.

10. WWE:

One of the most popular sports in the USA is WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment.

WWE has achieved widespread recognition and boasts a considerable following, with approximately 233,000 skilled wrestlers in the country. The sport garners significant television viewership, making it a popular entertainment choice for many.

The roots of combat sports like boxing and wrestling in America can be traced back to the 19th century, highlighting their longstanding presence in the country’s sporting history.

WWE initially focused on promoting professional wrestling and has expanded its reach into various other industries, including American football and film, since its inception in 1953.

Today, the company broadcasts more than 450 wrestling matches annually in 28 different languages, reaching an audience of 900 million homes worldwide.

Notably, WWE has been a platform for individuals to transition into other entertainment realms.

For example, Dwayne Johnson, widely recognized by his stage name “The Rock,” began his career in wrestling before becoming a successful actor. This demonstrates the influence and reach of WWE in the broader entertainment landscape.

Also, check out the top 10 Biggest Football Stadiums in USA

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