The most popular team sports in the United States are American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer.


The most popular team sports in the United States are American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer.

The 10 Most Popular Sports in the USA: Audience Survey Analysis

The Most Popular Sports in the USA: % of Fans that Pay Attention to the Sport

RankSportPopularity (%)
1American Football74.5
5Ice Hockey22.1

1. American Football – 74.5%

American football takes the crown when it comes to popularity, and this is the most-watched sport in the US.

The NFL (National Football League) is the highest professional level of American football in the world, and arguably the biggest professional sports league in the United States and Canada, and perhaps the world also.

The NFL pulls remarkable viewership numbers. Their regular season viewership in 2021 was 17.1 million on TV and digital media.

This speaks volumes about the popularity of the sport. NFL has pretty much secured its first position in viewership and popularity since the 1920s when it was first formed.

American football is rooted deep in American culture, as it is widely played everywhere, from high school to college to international arenas.

Many outsiders may confuse American football with rugby. Although they are similar, they are two completely different sports with different rules of play, different sizes and different looks of the field.

Both of these sports also use different balls, with a different number of players on each team, as well as different pieces of equipment and game time!

Some of the most famous professional American football players of all time include:

2. Basketball- 56.6%

While American football is considered the most-watched sport, basketball is widely considered the most-played sport in the US.

Research shows that 26% of surveyed people between the ages of 18 and 64 who live in the US enjoy playing a good game of basketball and they play regularly.

Basketball is a popular sport in the rest of the world too. It is considered the 10th most-followed sport in the world.

US basketball competitions are organised by the NBA (National Basketball Association).

The NBA is America’s major and most prominent basketball league, cultivating some of the best basketball players of all time.

This list includes Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley.

These world-renowned names have gone far in the sport’s history, and they are forever connected with the name of the game.

3. Baseball- 50.5%

Baseball as a sport requires a lot of physical power, strategy and patience.

Players must also perfect the art of doing the right thing in a super-pressurised environment – which is something the American crowd likes to worship and admire.

It’s no surprise that baseball is so popular!

However, in recent years the popularity of this sport in the US has decreased.

In the past, it was possibly the 2nd, if not the most popular sport, but currently, it proudly comes in at 3rd place.

Baseball competitions in America are categorised into two groups, based on their levels: Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball (MLB).

The MLB is the oldest major professional sports league in the US and Canada.

The Major Leagues are composed of 30 teams (29 in the US and 1 in Canada) that are equally divided between the National and American League.

Some of the most famous baseball players are Babe Ruth, Roger Clemens, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and many more.

4. Boxing- 23.4%

Surprised to find boxing so close to the top? We were too! But apparently, Americans love their boxing.

After all, boxing not only originated in the United States in the 19th century, but many of the greatest boxers of all time are American.

This includes Muhammad Ali, Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Rocky Marciano, Archie Moore, John L Sullivan, Jack Johnson, James Corbett, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Roy Jones Jr.

Back in the day, boxing used to be the pride of America and it drew some of the largest crowds.

America became and still is the centre of professional boxing. Therefore, it is no wonder that the sport still has a special place in the hearts of the American people.

The National Boxing Association (NBA) is the oldest boxing association, formed by representatives from 13 states to counterbalance the influence that the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) wielded at the time.

However, since the NBA and the NYSAC were sometimes crowned different “world champions” in the same division, in 1962, the NBA officially became the WBA – World Boxing Association- on 23 August 1962.

5. Ice Hockey- 22.1%

Compared to Canada, where ice hockey dominates, in the US it is the 5th most popular sport.

Targeting an audience from 18 to 45 years, this sport becomes more and more popular as you travel North up the United States.

Ice hockey became more popular with the invention of artificial ice rinks.

Ever since America won its first gold medal in the Winter Olympics in ice hockey, its popularity increased and ice hockey became the number 1 choice for indoor recreational sports.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is the highest and most popular level of ice hockey.

Some of the most prominent ice hockey players of all time include Patrick Kane, Brian Leetch, Mike Modano, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk and Pat Lafontaine.

6. Soccer- 21.6%

Soccer may be the most enjoyed and popular game all over the world, but in the US, it is only just starting to gain fame and increase in popularity.

The sport simply was not an immediate hit among American fans and sports lovers.

However, the World Cup is one of the most talked about events this year, and the popularity of soccer in the United States has increased significantly due to this event.

Even though it may not be at the very top of the list, soccer still pulls remarkable viewership and participation.

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white-space-collapse: preserve;">The USSF or U.S. Soccer Federation is the country's governing body for the sport and it oversees the league system.

It is also responsible for sanctioning professional leagues.

There are many soccer leagues in the USA, such as the MLS, U.S. Soccer, National Women’s Soccer League and Concacaf.

7. Golf- 19.7%

Golf has the reputation of “a rich old man game”, but that was just a phase.

At least 10% of the US population claims to play golf. That is nearly 30 million people.

It is a hugely popular pastime for many people.

The United States Professional Golf Association, or USPGA, is the body responsible for overseeing championships such as the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open.

The United States has also been a pioneer in women’s golf, with some of the greatest female golfers of all time hailing from the land of the free.

Some of the most popular golfers from the US are:

Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Sam Snead.

8. WWE- 16.7%

Wrestling reached its peak in the early 2000s, and the entertainment industry started to promote various versions of it. This made the sport super entertaining for all viewers!

9. Tennis- 15.5%

In America, tennis is rather seen as a “transitional game” which makes it stand out among other American sports.

Interestingly, tennis is one of the few games in the US that is not dominated by men, as the tennis game is equally popular with both men and women.

The NTL, or National Tennis League, was a governing body for the American professional tennis tour, but in 1970 it was sold to the World Championship Tennis (WCT).

Currently, there are 4 main tennis levels: NTRP, UTR, ITF and ATP.

The NTRP is responsible for placing players in appropriate leagues. UTR have their own system that uses an algorithm to rate the players based on their recent results.

This is also used by college coaches and for recruitment.

The ITF and ATP rankings are for professionals, as they are based on tournament points and used to make the official rankings. 

Some of the greatest US tennis players of all-time include:

Serena Williams, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick and many more.

10. Motorsports - 14.6%

We all know how Americans love their vehicles, so it’s really not that surprising to see the popularity of motorsports in the US.

Interestingly, Americans love to explore their local racing series, such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Cup series, compared to bigger events like Formula One and Moto GP.

Even though the world adores Formula One and perceives it as the most popular motorsport, in the US Formula one is not as popular as in Europe and South America, although Netflix ‘Drive to survive’ series has helped in that regard.

The NASCAR - National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing- is probably the most popular major league in America.

It attracts millions of spectators, including sold-out crowds at several tracks.

10 Most Popular Sports in USA You Need to Keep an Eye On

11. Badminton

Badminton is among the most popular sports at American schools and universities. Its simplicity and non-competitive nature invite players of all skill levels to enjoy it.

12. Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and its popularity in America has skyrocketed in the last decade.

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