If there’s one thing North Americans could agree over, it’s the fact that they love their sports. The country is coming off one of the most divisive moments in recent history, a period exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. Fortunately, however, the major sports leagues were able to return to action amid the crisis.
While sports are loved across the United States, not all are made equal and, when it comes to popularity, some disciplines outrank each other significantly. No matter the sport, though, we can find U.S betting sites offering lines and odds for each of them, with betting just as big a pastime as viewing and attending games.
The list below seeks to rank the most popular sports in the U.S based on viewership ratings and web searches.
1. NFL Football
American Football is by far the most popular sport across the nation. The NFL season only recently came to an end, with Super Bowl 55 played out earlier this month. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the previous champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, to give legendary quarterback Tom Brady yet another championship.
Football fans are some of the most active worldwide in terms of attendance and are hardly confined to their couches. Of course, attendance has taken a huge dip given the COVID-19 problem and, per Pro Football Reference, the league saw overall attendance fall to 1.2 million in 2020. Previous years brought north of 17 million fans to stadiums across the country.
As you might expect, pro football players are among the highest paid in American sports. Chiefs star QB Patrick Mahomes was signed to a 10-year extension in 2020 that will see him earn over $450 million over the span.
2. MLB Baseball
The second most popular sport in the U.S, baseball is widely recognized as America’s favorite pastime. Even Michael Jordan dabbled following his first retirement from basketball in the 90s. Baseball in America boasts two main tiers: the major league and the minor league. MJ suited up for the latter.
The origin of baseball is still being debated, with claims made for both America and Britain. But it’s widely considered to be a chiefly American sport. In spite of that, baseball is played in many other countries, including Japan, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, the Czech Republic, and South Africa.
3. NBA Basketball
The NBA is still gaining traction as an American league and is only behind the NFL and the MLB. Basketball is one of the most internationally recognized sports and is played just about everywhere.
The NBA set the standard when it came to a return to team sports in America on the back of the coronavirus prompting a global shutdown. The league managed to crown a champion in 2020 after moving into a bubble in Orlando, Florida and was able to maintain a safe environment for the duration of its stay.
Things have become more complicated since teams returned to their respective arenas, with a number of games having to be postponed due to players testing positive and various contact tracing issues.
The NBA has produced some of the most renowned athletes in history, such as the aforementioned Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant.
4. NHL Hockey
Hockey comes in many forms, the likes of which might surprise the most ardent of sports fans. However, ice hockey remains the most popular version of the game and the U.S’s NHL happens to be the fourth-most watched sports league in the country.
The league also has a number of Canadian teams as Ice Hockey is thought to be the most popular sport in Canada. It’s also quite popular in Europe.
5. MLS Soccer
Soccer (referred to as football basically everywhere else) is the most popular sport in the world and the FIFA World Cup is by far the biggest sporting event on the planet. In America, though, it’s not as popular as it is elsewhere. The discipline reigns supreme in Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa but, as you can tell from the above, does not rank as highly in the United States.
Major League Soccer (MLS) is the soccer division that’s paid the most attention in the country. The involvement of iconic players such as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney has gone a long way in increasing the league’s popularity given their achievements in Europe. The MLS has also been graced by popular international players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thierry Henry, Kaka, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, David Villa, and Andrea Pirlo.