The Top 5 Most Popular Sports in America
Hivean friends! I hope you're all going well and especially to those in the Sports Talk Social tribe. Today I present a piece about the landscape of American sports which has changed rapidly over the last few years. Let's go and take a look at the five most popular sports in the U.S. at the moment:
5. Ice Hockey
Ice hockey is the favourite sport of 4% of Americans and the fifth most popular sport in America. It's a different story across the border in Canada; the most popular sport and an integral part of Canadian culture. When comparing ice hockey to other major professional sports, ice hockey is relatively unpopular with only 15 states in the U.S. sponsoring ice hockey at a high school level. American football and basketball in comparison are represented in all states and baseball in all states but two.
ESPN Sports Science calculated that ice hockey is the hardest sport to play in the world, with body hits calculated at 17% harder than in American football. It's also considered the toughest team sport in the world; hockey fundamentals involving skating at full speed while trying to handle the puck, all while trying to avoid getting physically checked by the hardest hitters in all of sports. It's no wonder ice hockey lands at fifth on America's most popular sports.
Soccer is the fourth most popular sports in America, the favourite sports of 7% of Americans. Although Major League Soccer isn't one of the four major sports in the USA, it's fast becoming an integral part of North American sports culture. In fact, soccer is the fastest growing favourite sports in the U.S., growing at a rate of almost double in the space of four years and up 3% since 2018.
The growth of the MLS is a major part of soccer's popularity growth in the U.S. and is currently the 8th most attended soccer league in the world. Between 2013 and 2018 crowds had increased 34% and there are 27 teams in 2021, way up from the 12 teams in the league in 2005. Soccer may not be the toughest sport in the world but soccer players are considered the most agile in all sports. Soccer players cover 2.5 times more distance in a game than a basketball player and at double the spee
Baseball is America's national sport and America's national pastime because of the role it played in shaping America’s history. There’s a magic about the tradition of the "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" jingle, scoring homeruns, going to a ballpark and eating baseball hotdogs.
Baseball requires the most hand eye-coordination of all sports, and batters have on average only 0.4 seconds to react to a pitch which is remarkable considering the average human reaction is only 0.75 seconds. Add in where a pitch is thrown, the type of pitch and the spin rate and you can see how difficult baseball actually is.
Many consider baseball boring though. You could argue that the pace of play in requires great mental strength. There are just under 150 pitches thrown each game and each player must be locked in on each and every play even though they'll only be involved a handful of times. To the detriment of baseball, this is why some consider it a dying sport. The slow pace doesn't resonate with younger generations who find it boring.
Baseball is still the third most popular sport in the U.S., the favourite sport of over 9% of Americans but soccer is fast on its tail. It’s also the second most participated sport behind only basketball, with 23 million players nationally. Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota are the only states in the US that don't sanction high school baseball.
Basketball was invented in America, and is the only major sport that was invented in the US. It was invented by Canadian American James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891 and has evolved into one of the most technically difficult sports to play professionally, behind only ice hockey and football.
The game of basketball is easy to learn and easily accessible to everyone which is why it's an important part of America. It's also why it has the most participants with 24 million Americans playing the game actively. The barriers are low for participation. All you need is a ball, to learn the fundamentals and a little bit of space as it doesn't require the space required to play baseball, football, soccer or ice hockey.
The evolution of basketball culture through sports, music and fashion is an unrivalled phenomenon in US sports. Basketball is the second most popular sport in America and the favourite sport of 15% of people. It may not be America’s national sport, that title goes to baseball. But the NBA’s influence globally makes basketball one of the biggest cultural influences on the planet.
1. American Football
American football is the most popular sport in America, the favourite sport of 37% of Americans. It's by far America's favourite sport and more than three times more popular than basketball which sits in second place. The action-packed intensity of football is able to connect people in ways other sports can't. American football has around 9 million players, well behind the 24 million that actively participate in basketball. American football however is the most played sport by high school and college athletes.
From a grassroots level high school football is an obsession with small town America and was a popular pastime well before globalization. The traditions of local high school football teams are able to create special bonds in communities like nothing else. The small town of West Monroe, Louisiana, has a population of only 13,065. but the West Monroe Rebels high school team are able to regularly sell out its 5,500 capacity stadium. The school also has a 230-member marching band, has won two national championships and eight state titles.
College football is arguably the most important sports culturally for America, especially for the southern United States. Athletes mirror American values of teamwork and resilience, playing with absolutely everything they've got as they try and make it to the NFL. Every year new students join colleges and in addition to college alumni so the fan bases of college football teams is always growing.
The NFL is also the most profitable sports league in the world and extremely popular because of its parity across all franchises. The tailgate party culture is also a significant part of American culture, able to bring fans together. The Super Bowl is also the most watched event in America and the annual championship game of the NFL is the biggest US sports event worldwide. Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most recognized parts of American culture worldwide and is considered an unofficial holiday where families and friends - even those who don’t normally watch football - gather together to watch the game.
All the way from the Land Down Under, I created Wolfgang Sport as I enjoy writing and watching British and American sports. Started in 2017, I started the blog as a way to connect my passion for sports in the US & UK. Sign up to the newsletter today_ and I'll prove Aussies know more about your own sports than you think.