August 16, 2022

Top 5 Most Popular Sports in the United States

America loves its sports. From the global games of soccer and basketball to the distinctly domestic sports of baseball and American football, we love to play, watch, and even invest in top-level athletic competitions. Let’s take a look at the top five most popular sports in the United States and why we love them.

American Football

Only in America is a football game an occasion for a de facto national holiday. Gridiron football, at the professional, collegiate, and even high school level, is a distinctly American phenomenon. The primacy of this complicated and physically gruesome sport baffles sports skeptics and global citizens. How can a game with such byzantine rules and bad views from the cheap seats capture the American heart—and wallet—so firmly? Some people will bloviate about how football teaches people how to get knocked down and get back up again. We’ll tell you the real story: it makes great TV, and selecting expert sports picks for NFL games is an irresistible hobby.

The Old Ball Game

Though football shows no signs of yielding its top spot, the death of America’s pastime is greatly exaggerated. Baseball remains the most popular spectator sport in America, with millions of people passing through the turnstiles of ballparks at every level. While MLB tickets have priced out many fans, and the costs of actually playing the game have grown tragically prohibitive, the game still has a place in our hearts—over 75 million Americans watched the Cubs end their 108-year drought in 2016. Whether you view the sport via television or in person, you can’t beat a fun time at the old ballpark.

Basketball: Pro and College

While all pro sports in America have their amateur counterparts, perhaps in no other sport is the divide as rancorous as that between fans of the NBA and partisans of the college game. Forget Lakers vs. Celtics or Duke vs. UNC—the real war for basketball’s soul is the question of who comes first, the individual or the organization? What comes first, money or passion? Is there better theatre in the NBA Playoffs or the unpredictable chaos of March Madness? Deep philosophical questions, to be sure, but we know which one starts more office pools.

Hockey: Fire on Ice

Ice hockey in America calls to mind Jerry Garcia’s comparison of black licorice to the Grateful Dead: not everyone likes it, but those who do really like it—especially in hockey hotbeds such as Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Michigan. Hockey’s speed, finesse, and intensity turn heads, but what really captures fans’ hearts are its historic rivalries. Take New York’s war between the big-city Rangers and suburban Islanders. The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, once owned by the same family, have duked it out for decades. The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs represent the two solitudes of French and English Canada on the ice.

Soccer: The World’s Game Comes Home

The world’s game has finally made the serious inroads in American sports culture that it threatened to make since the days of Pele. However, it’s not just Major League Soccer that has vaulted The Beautiful Game into the American consciousness. Thank trans-Atlantic telecasts of England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, and Italy’s La Liga for bringing elite play and cosmopolitan cool stateside and finally placing soccer among the top five most popular sports in the United States.

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