There are so many great American Sports, but what is more popular?

American sports have been dominated by the National Football League for the past two decades. But where do the other major leagues and their respective sports stand on the list? Let’s look at the top 5 most popular sports in America.

1- Football (NFL)

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With the NFL ranking as top of the most popular sports leagues in the world, it’s not surprising that football continues to dominate the American sports market. In the 2021 season, NFL regular season games averaged over 17 million viewers. The Super Bowl Championship, the mecca of American sporting events, brought in over 112 million as an audience. College Football is also among the most popular college sports. The College Football Championship Game received more than 22 million viewers. NFL Network’s RedZone show, which features the best live moments from every game, has over 5 million subscribers.

Fantasy football is also a massive industry in America. Over 50 million people play fantasy sports, with about 75% playing just fantasy football. The rise of fantasy football and sports gambling has created an even larger football dominance in America. Over $8 billion was spent in bets by football fans during the Super Bowl alone. Around $50 billion will be gambled on in football games throughout an average season. The NFL made over $15 billion in revenue last season.

2- Basketball (NBA)

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Coming in at #2 is basketball. The National Basketball Association is very popular in America. The 6-game NBA finals averaged over 12 million views per game, totaling around 75 million. The NBA has grown exponentially over the past decade. Although they only make about half of the NFL’s $15 billion a year in profits, they’ve slowly eaten into the NFL’s market share. The NBA’s share of overseas talent and competition in foreign leagues has also increased basketball global popularity.

In addition to the NBA, college basketball is wildly popular in America. Thanks to the NCAA “March Madness” tournament, college basketball has become one of the top ranked sports in America. The average March Madness game averages over 10 million viewers per game, more than most NBA regular season games. The finals between North Carolina and Duke brought in over 16 million views. Fans spent over $3 billion gambling during this past year’s NCAA Tournament.

3- Baseball (MLB)

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The third most popular sport is the old American classic of Baseball. Major League Baseball has faced some adversity over the last several years. After seeing decreased viewing and attendance numbers, a variety of changes has been made to the sport, many to shorten the length of the game or increase scoring, including a pitch clock, easier automatic walks, a universal DH, banning the shift, altered or juiced baseballs, and eventually robot home plate umpires.

A regular season MLB game averages a little bit over a million viewers. The World Series still performs pretty well, averaging nearly 12 million viewers per game. With college baseball significantly less popular than college football and basketball, baseball has had a decreasing impact on American sports. The MLB will be hoping that the changes they’ve implemented will give the game a second wind, but don’t expect it to push the NBA or NFL in the rankings any time soon.

4- Hockey (NHL)

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The National Hockey League has seen some similar struggles to the MLB. An average of 4.6 million people viewed each NHL Stanley Cup Final game last season, almost the same number as 2008 and over a million less than in 2013. The NHL’s average regular season game brought in roughly 600,000 viewers, indicating a smaller but dedicated audience. The NHL seems mainly content to focus on just that audience, making fewer changes than the MLB.

Like baseball, college hockey has an audience, but nowhere near the size of the college football and basketball audiences. Despite its smaller market, the NHL is still wildly profitable, making about $2.3 billion in revenue each season. This is mainly thanks to the popularity of hockey in Canada, which has seven teams in the NHL. Like many of the major sports leagues in America, the NHL has explored the idea of expanding even further to more countries overseas.

5- Soccer

The 5th most popular sport in America is soccer. Despite being the most popular sport in the world, Major League Soccer has consistently trailed the “big 4” sports in America. That said, soccer in America has snowballed over the last few years. Overall, there’s been an improvement in skill and competitiveness in the country, as indicated by a more competitive World Cup national team, which has increased the level of interest and quantity of viewers.

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Perhaps due to the sport’s international popularity, Major League Soccer in America has grown surprisingly. Over the last ten years, MLS TV viewership doubled from roughly 140,000 viewers per game to over 280,000. Unfortunately, the MLS is still a long way from making enough ground on the other most popular sports in the country, making only about $200 million per year in revenue. Still, it’s considered possible that soccer could surpass hockey over the next decade.