The major professional sports leagues, or simply major leagues, in the United States and Canada are the highest professional competitions of team sports in the two countries. Although individual sports such as golf, mixed martial arts, tennis, and auto racing are also very popular, the term is usually limited to team sports.
These four leagues are also commonly referred to as the Big Four. Each of these is the richest professional club competition in its sport worldwide. The best players can become cultural icons in both countries and elsewhere in the world, because the leagues enjoy a significant place in popular culture in the U.S. and Canada. The NFL and NHL each have 32 teams, and the MLB and the NBA each have 30 teams. The most recent market to receive its first "Big Four" team is Las Vegas, Nevada, which saw the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights make their debut for the 2017–18 season.
Baseball, football and hockey have had professional leagues for over 100 years; early leagues such as the National Association, Ohio League and National Hockey Association formed the basis of the modern MLB, NFL and NHL respectively. Basketball is a relatively new development; the NBA evolved from the National Basketball League and its splinter group the Basketball Association of America, taking on its current form in 1949. The fifth biggest professional sports league is Major League Soccer (MLS). While soccer is very popular globally, in Canada and the United States it has struggled to become established with several professional leagues being established and folding before MLS was founded in 1996. The Canadian Football League (CFL), a much smaller league (9 teams), is also popular in Canada. All of these leagues draw 15,000 or more fans in attendance per game on average as of 2015. This list includes a ranking by teams in the Big Four (B4) and a separate ranking including MLS and CFL teams called the Big Six (B6).
The following list contains all metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada containing at least one team in any of the six major leagues. The number of teams in the big four leagues (B4) and the big six leagues (B6), and the city's teams in the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Canadian Football League (CFL). No metropolitan area has teams in all six leagues, as NFL teams are exclusively in the United States and CFL teams are exclusively in Canada.
^The Rams and Chargers are both in their second stints in the Los Angeles market. The Rams arrived from Cleveland in 1946 and played in the L.A. area until moving to St. Louis after the 1995 season; they would return to L.A. in 2016. The Chargers were originally based in Los Angeles, playing there for the AFL's first season in 1960 before moving to San Diego, where they would play until returning to L.A. in 2017. In addition to the Rams and Chargers, two other NFL teams have called Los Angeles home. The Buccaneers (no relation to NFL franchise in Tampa) played in the 1926 season; despite representing Los Angeles, the team operated out of Chicago because of the difficulty of transcontinental travel in the era before modern air travel. The Oakland Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994, before they moved back to Oakland.
^Two other top-level football teams have played as the Dallas Texans. The first Texans played in the NFL for one season in 1952. The second Texans were one of the eight original teams of the AFL in 1960, and played under that name through the 1962 season, after which they moved to Kansas City, Missouri and began play under their current name of Kansas City Chiefs.
^The Washington Senators played 1 season in the NFL (then APFA) in 1921. The Commanders were known as the Redskins
from 1937, when they moved from Boston, until 2020 when the name was temporarily changed to the Washington Football Team; the Commanders name was adopted in 2022.
^Before the Patriots joined the NFL as a result of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, three other NFL teams had played in Boston: the Bulldogs (1929, disbanded), the Braves/Redskins (1932-1936, moved to Washington) and the Yanks (1944-1948, moved to New York and became the Bulldogs).
^The Denver Nuggets joined the NBA in 1949 as a result of the BAA's merger with the NBL, but dissolved following their first NBA season; the current Denver Nuggets joined the NBA as part of the ABA–NBA merger of 1976 and are not related to the original Nuggets.
^Houston hosted the Houston Oilers from 1960 (where they played in the AFL until its merger with the NFL in 1970) through 1996 when the team moved to Tennessee—initially being called the Tennessee Oilers in its first season in Memphis and its second season in Nashville until ultimately being renamed the Tennessee Titans upon the opening of the team's current Nashville stadium in 1999.
^Five other NFL teams have played in the Cleveland area: the Tigers (1920-1922; the team suspended operations and could not pay an annual guarantee), the Indians/Bulldogs (1923-1927, when the team moved to Detroit and became the Wolverines), the Indians (1931), the Rams (1937-1946; moved to Los Angeles) and the original Browns (1950-1995). The original Browns' owner Art Modell had planned to move the Browns to Baltimore but was threatened by legal action from both Cleveland and Browns fans; the dispute was resolved when Modell was given an expansion franchise in Baltimore using existing Browns personnel, while the city of Cleveland was allowed to retain the team's intellectual property for a new Browns franchise.
^2 former baseball teams played in the National League: the Blues (1879-1884, when the teams was folded into the Brooklyn Grays) and the Spiders (1889-1899, when the team was contracted from the league). The Guardians were known as the Indians from 1914 to 2021.
^The Eagles, a relocation of the Ottawa Senators, played in the NHL for the 1934-1935 season; after a request to suspend operations for the following season was rejected by the NHL, the team was disbanded and its players dispersed among the league's remaining teams.
^The original Hornets franchise played in the NBA from 1988 to 2002, before moving to New Orleans. The current Hornets were established in 2004 as the Charlotte Bobcats, but re-assumed the Hornets name in 2014, after the New Orleans Hornets renamed themselves the Pelicans and transferred their records and statistics from their time as the original Hornets to the current Charlotte franchise.
^The Red Stockings, informally known as the "Reds", played in the National League from 1876 until it was expelled in 1880 for violating league rules. The current Reds joined the NL in 1890 from the AA.
^Before the Pacers joined the NBA in 1976 as a result of the ABA–NBA merger, two NBA teams had played in Indianapolis: the Indianapolis Jets of the NBL joined the BAA (the NBA's immediate predecessor) in 1948, but dissolved the following year when the NBL merged with the BAA, in favor of the NBL's Indianapolis Olympians. The Olympians would disband in 1953.
^Milwaukee had an NFL franchise from 1922-1926 called the Milwaukee Badgers. A few years after the Badgers folded, the Green Bay Packers would play a portion of their home schedule in Milwaukee on a regular basis from 1933 until 1994.
^Prior to the Brewers, three MLB teams have played in Milwaukee. In the National League, the Grays played in the 1878 NL season, while the Braves played in the city from 1953 until it moved to Atlanta in 1965. The original Brewers played in the American League's inaugural season in 1901 before moving to St. Louis and becoming the Browns.
^The New Orleans Jazz played in the NBA in 1974 before moving to Salt Lake City in 1979. The Pelicans themselves (not related to the Jazz) were formerly a relocation of the Charlotte Hornets, but in 2013 the renamed Pelicans transferred its records and statistics from their time in Charlotte to the Charlotte Bobcats, who were about to reassume the Hornets name. The Pelicans are now considered an expansion team starting play in 2002 as the New Orleans Hornets, then renaming themselves as the Pelicans in 2013.
^The Bisons played in the National League from 1879 until it left the league in 1885; the Bisons have played in the minor leagues in one form or another since. In addition, the Toronto Blue Jays played a majority of their home games in Buffalo during the 2020 season due to COVID-19-related issues preventing the Blue Jays from playing in Toronto.
^San Diego hosted the San Diego Chargers from 1961 (where they initially played in the AFL until the league's merger with the NFL in 1970) through 2016, at which point the team moved back to its original city of Los Angeles for the 2017 season.