From top, left to right: baseball stadium Michael Jordan with the Chicago bulls, Fenway Park, Sydney McLaughlin, Danica Patrick, American football Army–Navy Game, skateboarder, the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey game, U.S. men's soccer team, The start of the 2015 Daytona 500, and golfer Michelle Wie West.

Sports in the United States are an important part of the nation's culture. Historically, the national sport has been baseball. However, in more recent decades, American football has been the most popular sport in terms of broadcast viewership audience. Basketball has grown into the mainstream American sports scene since the 1980s, with ice hockey and soccer doing the same around the turn of the 21st century.

These sports comprise the "Big Five". In the first half of the 20th century, boxing and collegiate football were among the most popular sports after baseball. Golf, tennis, and collegiate basketball are other spectator sports with longstanding popularity. Tennis is currently considered to be the sixth most popular sport in the United States. [1] Most recently, mixed martial arts has been breaking records in attendance and broadcast viewership for all combat sports.

Based on revenue, the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada are the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS). At $16 billion in revenue, the NFL is by revenue the largest sports league in the world.[2]

The market for professional sports in the United States is about $69 billion, roughly 50% larger than that of all of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa combined.[3] All these leagues enjoy wide-ranging domestic media coverage and, except for Major League Soccer, all are considered the preeminent leagues in their respective sports in the world. Although American football does not have a substantial following in other nations, the NFL does have the highest average attendance (67,254) of any professional sports league in the world. MLS has the second highest average attendance of any sports league in the U.S. (21,789),[4] followed by MLB with an average of 18,900.[5] Of these five U.S.-based leagues, all but the NFL have at least one team in Canada.

Professional teams in all major sports in the United States operate as franchises within a league, meaning that a team may move to a different city if the team's owners believe there would be a financial benefit, but franchise moves are usually subject to some form of league-level approval.[6] All major sports leagues use a similar type of regular-season schedule with a post-season playoff tournament. In addition to the major league–level organizations, several sports also have professional minor leagues, active in smaller cities across the country.

As in Canada and Australia, sports leagues in the United States do not practice promotion and relegation, unlike most sports leagues in Europe. Another notable distinction is that most sports fans in the United States tend to follow more than one team sport, depending on the time of year, unlike the case in many parts of the world where fans might avidly follow only one team sport such as soccer or baseball. Thus, it is possible for a U.S. sports fan who follows multiple sports to spend practically every single day of the year watching professional sports, since there is no time of year when all the Big Five leagues would be off-season.

Sports are particularly associated with education in the United States, with most high schools and universities having organized sports, and this is a unique sporting footprint for the U.S. College sports competitions play an important role in the American sporting culture, and college basketball and college football are more popular than professional sports in some parts of the country. The major sanctioning body for college sports is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Colleges collectively receive billions of dollars from TV deals, sponsorships, and ticket sales. In 2019, the total revenue generated by NCAA athletic departments added up to $18.9 billion.[7]

Based on Olympic Games, World Championships, and other major competitions in respective sports, the United States is the most successful nation in the world in baseball, basketball, athletics, swimming, lacrosse, beach volleyball, figure skating, tennis, golf, boxing, diving, shooting, rowing and snowboarding, and is all time one of the top five most successful nations in ice hockey, wrestling, gymnastics, volleyball, speed skating, alpine skiing, bobsleigh, equestrian, sailing, cycling, weightlifting and archery, among others. This makes the United States the most successful sports nation in the world. The United States has been referred to by some as the Hegemon of World Sports.[8][9][10][11][12][13] The United States has placed first in the Summer Olympic medal table 18 times out of 29 Summer Olympics and 28 appearances. Unlike most other nations, the United States government does not provide funding for sports nor for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.[14][15][16][17]


Main article: History of sports in the United States

A Grand entry at the 2018 Boswell FFA Rodeo in Boswell, Oklahoma.

American football, indoor American football, baseball, softball, and indoor soccer evolved out of older British (Rugby football, British baseball, Rounders, and association football) sports.[18] However, basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball, racquetball, pickleball, skateboarding, snowboarding, Ultimate, wind-surfing, and Water Skiing are fully American inventions,[18] some of which have become popular in other countries and worldwide.[19]

Up until the American Civil War, cricket was a somewhat popular sport in the United States, with presidents such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln having played or watched the game.[20][21] However, cricket at the time was a sport played over several days, and during the Civil War, troops preferred to play the newly rising game of baseball, which was much shorter in duration and did not require a special playing surface to be played.[22][23]


Main article: United States at the Olympics

Michael Phelps celebrates after winning his eighth gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics

American athletes have won a total of 2,673 medals (1,075 of them gold) at the Summer Olympic Games and another 305 (105 of them gold) at the Winter Olympic Games, making the United States the most prolific medal-winning nation in the history of the Olympics. The U.S. is ranked first in the all-time medal table even if all the incarnations of Russia and Germany are combined, leading the second-placed Russians by 402 gold and 917 total medals. These achievements are even more impressive considering the fact that the American Olympic team remains the only in the world to receive no government funding.[24][25][16]

The United States hosted both Summer and Winter Games in 1932, and has hosted more Games than any other country – eight times, four times each for the Summer and Winter Games:

Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics for a third time in 2028. Salt Lake City will host the Winter Olympics for a second time in 2034 marking the tenth Olympics hosted in the United States.

The United States has won the most gold and overall medals in the Summer Olympic Games, even if the medal totals of the Soviet Union/CIS and Russia are combined, and has topped the medal table 18 times.[26] The country has won the second most gold and overall medals in the Winter Olympic Games, behind Norway, but has topped the medal table only one time, in 1932. If all of Germany's and Russia's incarnations are combined, the United States slips to fourth in the all-time Winter Olympic Games table.

Individual sports


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2023)
Jack Nicklaus is widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time, winning a total of 18 career major championships.
Mickey Wright, often regarded as one of the most dominant players in the history of women's golf

Golf is one of the most popular participation sports in the United States, with approximately 24 million people playing golf on a regular basis as of 2023.[27] Golf's origins can be traced back to 15th century Scotland, where players would hit a pebble around sandy dunes using a stick or primitive club. The game has evolved over centuries into the version played today, which involves hitting a small, dimpled ball into each hole on a course in as few strokes as possible.

Main article: Golf in the United States

Introduced to America in the late 19th century, it quickly gained favor among the upper class. The United States Golf Association was founded in 1894 to establish rules. Iconic courses like Augusta National and Pebble Beach have hosted legendary tournaments.

Key U.S. golf events include The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and Ryder Cup. Legends like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have left a lasting mark on the sport, while talents such as Scottie Scheffler and Rory Mcllroy continue to shine.

Golf is now more accessible across demographics, offering a blend of relaxation and mental challenge. Advancements in equipment and training ensure its continued evolution.

Since the 1970s, the landscape of golf in the United States has seen significant advancements, particularly in the recognition of female players. This has been highlighted by increased support for women's golf programs, the expansion of women's tournaments, and greater representation of female golfers at all levels of the sport.[28]

In 2020, nearly 25 million people or around 8% of the total population of the U.S., played golf on a golf course in the United States, according to the National Golf Foundation.[29]


Main article: Boxing in the United States

Claressa Shields professional boxer and professional mixed martial artist.

The United States became the center of professional boxing in the early 20th century.[30] The National Boxing Association was founded in 1921 and began to sanction title fights. Joe Louis was an American professional boxer who competed from 1934 to 1951. He reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949, and is widely considered to be the one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all-time.[31][32][33][34] Louis is widely regarded as the first person of African-American descent to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II.[35] Since the late 1990s, boxing has declined in popularity.[36][37][38]

As of 2021, boxing participation in the United States reached approximately 6.7 million people, indicating a robust growth in the sport's popularity.[39]

Popular team sports

Main article: Professional sports leagues in the United States


The most popular team sports in the United States are American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer. All five of these team sports are popular with fans, are widely watched on television, have a fully professional league, are played by millions of Americans, enjoy varsity status at many Division I colleges, and are played in high schools throughout the country.

Location of the franchises (teams) of the big five leagues in United States and Canada.
Sport Favorite
TV viewing
(since 2010)1
(men + women)
Football 37% 114.4 million NFL 8.9 million 249 (249M + 0W) 51
Basketball 11% 30.8 million NBA 30.3 million 698 (351M + 349W) 51
Baseball 9% 40.0 million MLB 19.1 million 589 (298M + 291W) 49
Soccer 7% 29.3 million MLS 19.6 million 531 (205M + 332W) 51
Ice hockey 4% 43.6 million NHL 3.1 million 102 (61M + 41W) 20
  1. TV viewing record measures the game with the most TV viewers in the U.S. since 2005 for each sport: 2015 Super Bowl,[42] 2016 NBA Finals Game 7,[43] 2016 World Series Game 7,[44] 2014 FIFA World Cup Final,[45] and 2010 Winter Olympics Gold medal ice hockey game.[46]
  2. The column titled "States (HS)" represents the number of states that sponsor the sport at the high school level. For the purpose of this table, Washington, D.C. is counted as a state.[47]

The five most popular sports teams on Instagram from the United States as of June 14, 2023:[48]

# Team Sport Followers
1 Golden State Warriors Basketball 30.6 million
2 Los Angeles Lakers Basketball 22.8 million
3 Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball 15.7 million
4 Chicago Bulls Basketball 9.7 million
5 Inter Miami Soccer 8 million

American football

Main article: American football in the United States

The NFL's New England Patriots vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Cowboys playing against the Broncos in Super Bowl XII.

Football has the most participants of any sport at both high school and college levels, the vast majority of its participants being male.[49][50]

The NFL has the highest average attendance (67,591) of any professional sports league in the world and has the highest revenue[51] out of any single professional sports league.[52] The NFL has two conferences, the AFC and the NFC. The AFC has 4 divisions (AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, and AFC West). The NFC also has 4 divisions (NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, and NFC West.) Each division has 4 teams, with a total of 32 teams in the NFL. [53]

Millions watch college football throughout the fall months, and some communities, particularly in rural areas, place great emphasis on their local high school football teams. The popularity of college and high school football in areas such as the Southern United States (Southeastern Conference) and the Great Plains (Big 12 Conference and Big Ten Conference) stems largely from the fact that these areas historically generally did not possess markets large enough for a professional team.[54] Nonetheless, college football has a rich history in the United States, predating the NFL by decades, and fans and alumni are generally very passionate about their teams.


Main article: Baseball in the United States

Babe Ruth, circa 1920. He achieved his greatest fame as a home run batter for the New York Yankees
Ted Williams in 1947
Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees centerfielder, in 1953.
Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era.

Baseball and a variant, softball, are popular participatory sports in the U.S. Baseball was the first professional sport in the United States.[55][56][57] The highest level of baseball in the U.S. and the world is Major League Baseball. There are a total of 30 MLB teams. The World Series of Major League Baseball is the culmination of the sport's postseason each October. It is played between the winner of each of the two leagues, the American League and the National League, and the winner is determined through a best-of-seven playoff.

The New York Yankees are noted for having won more titles than any other U.S. major professional sports franchise. The Yankees' chief rivals, the Boston Red Sox, also enjoy a huge following in Boston and throughout New England. The Philadelphia Phillies of the National League are the oldest continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional American sports,[58] and enjoy a fanbase renowned for their rabid support of their team throughout Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, and have famously been dubbed as the "Meanest Fans in America".[59]

Every four years in March, the World Baseball Classic is held, which is the national team game, the most popular baseball national team game.[60]


Main article: Basketball in the United States

Many players and analysts have called Stephen Curry the greatest shooter in NBA history.[61]
Sue Bird, a member of the All-Decade and Top 15 teams from the WNBA.

Of those Americans citing their favorite sport, basketball is ranked second (counting amateur levels) behind football.[62] However, in regards to revenue the NBA is ranked third in popularity.[63] More Americans play basketball than any other team sport, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, with over 26 million Americans playing basketball. Basketball was invented in 1891 by Canadian physical education teacher James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the world's premier professional basketball league[64] and one of the major professional sports leagues of North America. It contains 30 teams (29 teams in the U.S. and 1 in Canada) that play an 82-game season from October to June. After the regular season, eight teams from each conference compete in the playoffs for the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

In high school basketball, Indiana has 10 of the 12 largest high school gyms in the United States,[65] and is famous for its basketball passion, known as Hoosier Hysteria.

Professional basketball is most followed in cities where there are no other sports teams in the four major professional leagues, such as in the case of the Oklahoma City Thunder,[66] the Sacramento Kings, the San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies, or the Portland Trail Blazers.


Main article: Soccer in the United States

Landon Donovan representing the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup.
Mia Hamm takes a corner kick

With an average attendance of over 21,000 per game (prior to COVID-19), Major League Soccer has the third-highest average attendance of any sports league in the U.S. after the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB),[67] and is the ninth-highest attended professional soccer league worldwide.[68]

The NWSL is expected to expand to 14 teams in 2024 and 15 shortly thereafter.[69]

The Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) is a North American professional indoor soccer league. MASL is the highest level of arena soccer in the North America and the world.[70]

Ice hockey

Main article: Ice hockey in the United States

Left: The Blackhawks have donned Camouflage practice jerseys for Veterans Day to show support for servicemen since 2009.
Right: The New York Rangers attempt to distract during the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs. The playoff series was the fifth to feature the Devils–Rangers rivalry.

The U.S. now has more youth hockey players than all other countries, excluding Canada, combined.[71] USA Hockey is the official governing body for amateur hockey in the United States. The United States Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Eveleth, Minnesota.

Historically, the vast majority of NHL players had come from Canada, with a small number of Americans. As late as 1969–70, Canadian players made up 95 percent of the league.[71]

However, the modern NHL has a much larger percentage of American players. At the start of the 2023-24 NHL season, American players made up 29.1 percent of the league, compared to 41.7 percent from Canada and 29.2 percent from various European countries.[72]

Calendar of the major men's professional sports leagues in the U.S.

January February March April May June July August September October November December
NFL (Football) NFL (Football)
MLB (Baseball)
NBA (Basketball) NBA (Basketball)
MLS (Soccer)
NHL (Ice hockey) NHL (Ice hockey)

Other team sports


The following table shows additional sports that are played by over 500,000 people in the United States.

Sport Participants
NCAA teams
(men + women)[73]
TV Viewership
Volleyball 10.7 million[41] 1,122
(155M + 1,067W)
NVA; PVF 92,003 794,000 Yes
Rugby union 1.4 million[74] over 600
(go to college rugby)
MLR 61,500 9,000,000 Yes
Lacrosse 0.7 million[75] 921
(397M + 524W)
NLL; PLL 52,004 476,000 Yes
  1. Attendance record measures highest single-game attendances. Attendance records are: Volleyball: 2023 Volleyball Day in Nebraska at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln;[76] Rugby: 2014 New Zealand vs. Ireland in Chicago;[77] and Lacrosse: 2007 NCAA Division I men's championship semifinals.[78]
  2. TV viewership records are: Volleyball: 2010 NCAA women's championship on ESPN2; Rugby: 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens on NBC; Lacrosse: 2016 NCAA championship on ESPN2


Women playing lacrosse.

Main article: Lacrosse in the United States

Lacrosse is a team sport that is believed to have originated with the Iroquois and the Lenape. The sport is most popular in the East Coast area from Maryland to New York. While its roots remain east, lacrosse is currently the fastest growing sport in the nation.[79] The National Lacrosse League is the professional Box lacrosse league, while the Premier Lacrosse League is the professional Field Lacrosse league. Major League Lacrosse was a semi-professional Field Lacrosse league that was operating nationally before merging into PLL in 2020.[80]


Main article: Volleyball in the United States

The U.S. Women's Volleyball team in 2008.

Volleyball is played in the United States, especially at the college and university levels.[original research?] Unlike most Olympic sports which are sponsored widely at the collegiate level for both sexes, the women's college volleyball teams are more common than men's college volleyball teams. In the 2011–12 school year, over 300 schools in NCAA Division I alone (the highest of three NCAA tiers) sponsored women's volleyball at the varsity level,[81] while fewer than 100 schools in all three NCAA divisions combined sponsored varsity men's volleyball, with only 23 of them in Division I.[82] Men's volleyball has grown at the non-scholarship NCAA Division III level in the 21st century, with a national championship established in 2012. As of the most recent 2022 season (2021–22 school year), 113 schools sponsor the sport at that level. At the same time, 26 D-I and 31 D-II members sponsored men's volleyball at the National Collegiate level, defined for the purposes of that sport as the combination of Divisions I and II.[83][note 1] The National Volleyball Association is the professional men's volleyball league, while the Pro Volleyball Federation is the professional women's volleyball league.

Rugby union

Main article: Rugby union in the United States

A scrum showing the body positions of the forwards, as well as both scrum-halves and the referee.

Rugby union participation in the U.S. has grown significantly in recent years, growing by 350% between 2004 and 2011.[84] A 2010 survey by the National Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association ranked rugby union as the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.[85]

Rugby union is the fastest growing college sport and sport in general in the United States.[86][87][88]

Minor sports

Organization of American sports

College sports

Main article: College athletics in the United States

University of Notre Dame and University of Southern California take the field in the 79th edition of the rivalry.
Harvard men's eight at Henley, 2004

The most practiced college sports, measured by NCAA reporting on varsity team participation,[89] are: (1) football (64,000), (2) baseball/softball (47,000), (3) track and field (46,000),[90] (4) soccer (43,000), (5) basketball (32,000), (6) cross-country running (25,000), and (7) swimming/diving (20,000). The most popular sport among female athletes is soccer, followed closely by track and field.[50]

High school sports

High school cheerleaders. Whether cheerleading constitutes an actual sport is a major source of contention in the U.S.

Most public high schools are members of their respective state athletic association, and those associations are members of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Some states have separate associations for public and non-public high schools.

The 2018–19 school year was the first in 30 years to see a decrease in high school sports participation. Increases through the previous decades had been largely driven by growth in girls' participation.[91] The high school sports with the highest number of participants for 2018–19 are:

Team sports[91]
  1. Football[hs 1] – 1,008,417
  2. Basketball – 939,836
  3. Baseball/Softball[hs 2] – 854,859
  4. Soccer – 853,182
  5. Volleyball – 516,371
Individual sports[91]
  1. Track & field (outdoor) – 1,093,621
  2. Cross country – 488,640
  3. Tennis – 348,750
  4. Swimming & diving – 309,726
  5. Wrestling – 268,565
  1. ^ 11-man football only. An additional 31,421 students played in variants with reduced team sizes (6-man, 8-man, 9-man).
  2. ^ Softball totals include fast-pitch and slow-pitch variants, with more than 98% of all softball players participating in fast-pitch.

Popular high school sports in various regions of the U.S. include the Texas High School football championships, the Indiana basketball championships, and ice hockey in Minnesota. The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is the largest high school sporting event in the country, with average attendance to the top tier, or "AA", games over 18,000.[92]

Sports media in the United States

See also: List of TV markets and major sports teams in the United States

Half time show at the game between Frisco High vs. Centennial football game.

Sports have been a major part of American broadcasting since the early days of radio.[93] Today, television networks and radio networks pay millions (sometimes billions) of dollars for the rights to broadcast sporting events. Contracts between leagues and broadcasters stipulate how often games must be interrupted for commercials. Because of all of the advertisements, broadcasting contracts are very lucrative and account for the biggest chunk of major professional teams' revenues. Broadcasters also covet the television contracts for the major sports leagues (especially in the case of the NFL) in order to amplify their ability to promote their programming to the audience, especially young and middle-aged adult males.[94]

A group of high school marching bands performs at the halftime show of the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

The advent of cable and satellite television has greatly expanded sports offerings on American TV.[95] ESPN, the first all-sports cable network in the U.S., went on the air in 1979. It has been followed by several sister networks and competitors. Some sports television networks are national, such as CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports 1, whereas others are regional, such as NBC Sports Regional Networks, Bally Sports and Spectrum Sports.[96] General entertainment channels like TBS, TNT, and USA Network also air sports events. Some sports leagues have their own sports networks, such as NFL Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network and SEC Network. Some sports teams run their own television networks as well.[97]

Sports are also widely broadcast at the local level, ranging from college and professional sports down to (on some smaller stations) recreational and youth leagues.[95] Internet radio has allowed these broadcasts to reach a worldwide audience.

U.S. TV sports rights
Sports rights Sport National TV contract Total Revenues Revenues per year Ref
National Football League (NFL) American football CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN,
YouTube, Verizon, Amazon
$56 billion $7 billion
National Basketball Association (NBA) Basketball ABC/ESPN, TNT/Max $24 billion $2.7 billion [98]
Major League Baseball (MLB) Baseball Fox, ESPN, TBS/Max, Peacock $12 billion $1.6 billion
March Madness Basketball CBS, Turner/Max $8.8 billion $1.1 billion
NASCAR Auto racing NBC/USA, Fox $8.2 billion $820 million
Olympic Games Multi-sport NBC $7.8 billion $705 million
College Football Playoff American football ESPN $5.6 billion $470 million
National Hockey League (NHL) Ice hockey ABC, ESPN, TNT/Max $4.445 billion $635 million [99]
Pac-12 Conference
College sports Fox, ESPN $3.0 billion $250 million
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) College sports ESPN $0.8 billion $55 million
Big Ten Conference
(Big Ten or B1G)
College sports Fox, ESPN $2.6 billion $440 million [100]
Big 12 Conference
(Big 12)
College sports Fox, ESPN $2.6 billion $200 million
Major League Soccer (MLS) Soccer MLS Season Pass
(Apple TV)
$2.5 billion $250 million [101]
U.S. Open (golf) Golf NBC $1.1 billion $93 million
FIFA World Cup Soccer Fox, Telemundo $1.0 billion $125 million
English Premier League Soccer NBC $1.0 billion $167 million
Southeastern Conference (SEC) College sports CBS $0.8 billion $55 million
US Open (tennis) Tennis ESPN $0.8 billion $70 million
World Baseball Classic (WBC) Baseball Fox N/A N/A
IndyCar Series Auto Racing NBC, USA, Peacock N/A N/A

Most popular sports in the United States

"Just Say No" paraphernalia at the Reagan Library display.

In the broadest definition of sports—physical recreation of all sorts—the four most popular sports among the general population of the United States are exercise walking (90 million), exercising with equipment (53 million), swimming (52 million) and camping (47 million). The most popular competitive sport (and fifth most popular recreational sport) is bowling (43 million). Other most popular sports are fishing (35 million), bicycling (37 million), weightlifting (33 million), aerobics (30 million), and hiking (28 million).[102]

According to a January 2018 Poll by Gallup, 37% of Americans consider football their favorite spectator sport, while 11% prefer basketball, 9% baseball, and 7% soccer. There is some variation by viewer demographics. Men, show a stronger preference for football than women, conservatives a stronger preference than liberals, and those over 35 a stronger preference than those under 35. In all groups, however, football is still the most popular. Basketball and soccer are more popular among liberals than conservatives.[103]

For two years in a row, 2021 and 2022, pickleball was named the fastest growing sport in the United States by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).[104] Between 2019 and 2022 the SFIA estimates the number of US players increased almost 40% to 4.8 million.

Sports leagues in the United States

The sports leagues

The following table shows the major sports leagues, professional and collegiate, which average over 15,000 fans per game and that have a national TV contract that pays rights fees.

League Sport Teams National TV contract Average
Total Annual
Major League Baseball (MLB) Baseball 30 Fox, FS1, ESPN, TBS, MLBN 28,187 68,494,752 [105]
National Basketball Association (NBA) Basketball 30 ABC, ESPN, TNT, NBATV 17,857 21,964,447 [106]
National Hockey League (NHL) Ice hockey 32 ABC, ESPN, TNT, NHLN 17,500 21,525,777 [107]
National Football League (NFL) American football 32 CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, NFLN 67,100 17,177,581 [108]
Major League Soccer (MLS) Soccer 29 Apple, Fox, Univision 22,111 10,900,804 [109]
Southeastern Conference (SEC) American football 14 ABC, ESPN 77,334 7,501,356 [110]
Big Ten Conference (B1G) American football 14 CBS, NBC, Fox 66,788 6,344,869
Big 12 Conference (XII) American football 14 ESPN, Fox 54,394 5,004,208
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) American football 14 ABC, ESPN 49,130 4,519,993
Pac-12 Conference (PAC) American football 12 ABC, ESPN, Fox 48,633 3,842,002
American Athletic Conference (AAC) American football 14 ABC, ESPN 23,820 2,096,138
Mountain West Conference (MWC) American football 12 CBS, Fox Sports 23,223 1,741,746
Sun Belt Conference (Sun Belt) American football 14 ESPN 20,837 1,771,134
Conference USA


American football 9 CBS-SN, ESPN 15,860 872,274

See also


  1. ^ The NCAA officially labels all championship events that are open to members of more than one NCAA division as "National Collegiate" championships. The only exception to this rule is in men's ice hockey, whose championship event remains branded as the "Division I" championship because the NCAA formerly sponsored a D-II championship in that sport.


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  2. ^ "10 Most Profitable Sports Leagues in the World". November 19, 2021.
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  4. ^ "2021 MLS Attendance".
  5. ^ "MLB average attendance 2021".
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Further reading