Top 10 Most Popular Sports In America (2023 Statistics)

Top 10 Most Popular Sports In America With Statistics
  • Basketball tops the ranking of the most popular sports in America.
  • 59% of the total American population enjoy sports, from bowling to yachting, but basketball, baseball, American football, and ice hockey are some of the country’s traditional sports.

The United States has the largest film industry in terms of revenue.

However, its sports industry is not far behind, with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) revered as one of the most prominent franchises in their respective sports.

Below is an in-depth walkthrough of the most popular sports in America, with recent credible statistics to support our rankings.

1. American Football (139.1 Million Fans)

American Football Players in Action

The beautiful game, a traditional sport, one whose biggest event, the Super Bowl, is considered a national cause for sporting festivity — it is no other than American football.

While over 139.1 million Americans, approximately 70% of the country’s sports fans, associate themselves with the sport, a whopping 37% address football matches as their favorite pastime.1

The 2021 NFL regular season reached 17.1 million people, on average (TV+Digital).

However, it does little to compete with Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, where over 114.4 million viewers enjoyed setting a U.S. TV viewership record for the most watched television show in United States history.2

Like basketball, many high schools and colleges countrywide have football teams, accounting for around 5.23 million participants above six years old playing the beautiful game in 2021.3

2. Basketball (121.2 Million Fans)

Basketball Player Dunking Ball in Hoop

People enjoy the movements, charges, dribbles, passes, layoffs, blocks, free throws, and dunks that lighten up the courts.

Little wonder 61% of sports fans in the United States enjoy basketball, contributing over 121 million fans to the world’s estimated two billion.4

About eleven percent of Americans (37 million) view basketball as their favorite sport, accounting for about 31 million viewers in the 2016 NBA Finals Game Seven.

ESPN averaged 1.44 million viewers through twelve games in 2021, and the 2022 NBA Finals averaged 12.4 million in the United States.5

Americans play basketball at various levels, from high school to collegiate and professional.

Therefore, over 27 million people aged six years and above played basketball in 2020 and 2021.

3. Baseball (113.3 Million Fans)

Close Up Baseball Batter and Catcher Watching in Action

Baseball’s physical intensity does little to quench Americans’ fiery love for the sport, with about 57% of the country’s sports fans claiming to be enthusiasts.6

About 9% (30.3 million) of Americans claim that baseball is their favorite sport, according to American independent journalist and editor Jim Norman, but over 19 million people play it in the United States.

While the 2021 World Series averaged a staggering 11.75 million viewers, roughly 68.5 million fans attended MLB games during the 2019 regular season.7 8

Viewership numbers in the late 1970s and 80s are much more than in the current decade.

Still, comparisons from viewership are misleading due to the decline in television watchers via cable or satellite.

Therefore, the myth that baseball is dying is not exactly true, as it remains one of Americans’ favorite sports.9

4. Soccer (97.4 Million Fans)

Association Football/Soccer Players Competing

Despite its growing popularity, the most popular sport in the world might not be a traditional American game. However, soccer has sneaked upwards to nestle among the United States’ big four, overtaking ice hockey.

In 2014, over 27 million people watched the United States play in the sport’s biggest tournament, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.10

However, on average, 1.14 million American viewers watched the 2021 MLS Cup final on ABC.

Millions of Americans consider themselves soccer fans, and around 12.6 million people in the country played soccer at least once in 2021 alone.11

Hence, according to reports, soccer fanship in the United States has soared up to 49% of America’s sports fans. The viewership increase also saw an increase in its current worth.12

5. Ice Hockey (73.5 Million Fans)

Ice hockey sits comfortably among the top-five sports in the United States, competing with soccer, basketball, baseball, and American football.

While it has declined in popularity due to soccer’s growing fanship, the sport still managed to attract about 37% of U.S. sports fans in 2021.13

This year, an average of 4.59 million Americans watched the Stanley Cup Finals, an NHL championship series.14

While this number is impressive, 5.8 million, on average, watched the series in 2013.

Ice hockey participation in the United States is quite impressive too.

The International Ice Hockey Federation reports 453,826 registered ice hockey players in the United States during the 2020/21 season, and over two million people played recreationally at least once that year countrywide.15

The NHL is the country’s most prominent league and one of the world’s most competitive, with twenty-four U.S.-based teams, seventeen more than Canada, the league’s second most populous country based on home-based teams. 

6. Boxing (55.6 Million Fans)

Boxers in the Ring

Two angry men on the street exchanging punches might get people scampering for safety instead of cheering on, but 50 million people in the U.S. were going to watch the Mayweather-McGregor fight in 2017.16

However, fanship extends to even more people, as about 28% of America’s sports fans in 2017 were professional boxing fans.17

The figures do not seem to have reduced, with Statista and Forbes reporting that 37% and 33% of their respondents claimed to be boxing fans in 2021.

These fans enjoy boxing during their pastime, consuming over 2.1 billion minutes of PBC Fight Night on FOX in 2019.

7. Golf (25 Million Fans)

Close Up Golf Player

While golf became a well-established spectator sport in the United States in the 1920s, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and many other prominent American golfers have inspired millions of their fellow citizens to love the sport.

About 7-10 million Americans love golf and follow it ardently; nevertheless, recreational golfers and casual fans are more in the country, reaching 25 million.18

Viewership and audience stats also run into seven digits, with over nine million viewers watching the final round of the Masters and over 5.67 million viewers watching the U.S. Open final round on television in 2021.19 20

8. Tennis (21.64 Million Fans)

Tennis Serve

Smashing the ball against the racket is more than a leisure game; but is an industry that attracts over 20 million participants, enjoying the sport’s events and hitting the courts to keep fit.21

While tennis is an aging sport, the current generation does not seem tired of it, hence the increase between 17.7 million participants in the 2010s to 21.64 million in 2020.22

These tennis participation stats are impressive, yet Americans would not shy away from reclining on their sofas to watch a tennis event.

Little wonder an average of 1.28 million people watched the complete U.S. Open across ESPN and ESPN2.23

9. Motorsports (15 Million Fans)

Do not be surprised; people do not only drive out of necessity but to show off their driving skills and watch others do so.

In that line of thought, motorsports comfortably sit on this list among the fastest-growing spectator sports in the United States.

Over fifteen million people attend all U.S. motorsports events annually, and an average of 1.3 million people have watched this season’s global motorsport series.24 25

ESPN Press Room saw a record 2.6 million views as the largest live F1 event on U.S. TV during the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix aired on ABC.26

The coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the sport’s viewership stats, but data reveals the numbers are recovering.

The NASCAR Cup Series readily comes to mind; however, viewership increased by six percent between 2021 and 2022, from a 3.48 million to a 3.7 million viewer average.27

10. Wrestling (11 Million Fans)

The ring is packed with exciting upsets, gruesome feuds, thrilling rounds of smacks, finishes, and compelling submissions that attract about 11 million people in the United States.28

The number ups by several folds globally, reaching roughly a billion households in 180 countries.

Still, the United States’ immense fanbase accounts for millions of viewers in various showings. 

The industry failed to record over the two million mark in two years; however, on August 1, 2022, Monday Night Raw reached an audience of 2.3 million to set a two-year viewership high.29

Despite its suppressed popularity due to the dominance of other sports and WWE content repetition, Wrestling’s making this list is impressive.

The Top 10 Most Popular Sports in America

Below is a summary of the most favorite sports in the United States.

RankFavorite SportEst. Fans Nationwide
1American Football139.1 Million
2Basketball121.2 Million
3Baseball113.3 Million
4Soccer97.4 Million
5Ice Hockey73.5 Million
6Boxing55.6 Million
7Golf25 Million
8Tennis21.64 Million
9Motorsports15 Million
10Wrestling11 Million


The most popular sports in America ranked in this article undoubtedly improve physical and mental health, help people fit into a social group, and instill habits for an active life. 

The popularity of sports in the United States is mouth-watering, with many participating recreationally in more than one sport while others earn from it professionally.

While people believe only American football, basketball, and baseball generate large audiences, the statistics in our article prove otherwise, as other sports, including soccer, tennis, and motorsports, enjoy large fanships.

Next up…

References & Notes

Facts Sources:
  1. Norman J. 2018. Football Still Americans’ Favorite Sport to Watch. Gallup.
  2. Breech J. 2015. Super Bowl 49 watched by 114.4M, sets U.S. TV viewership record. CBS.
  3. Number of participants in tackle football in the United States from 2010 to 2021. Statista.
  4. Walker C. 2021. Soccer has overtaken ice hockey to become the fourth most popular sport in the US. Daily Mail Online.
  5. Average TV viewership of NBA Finals games in the United States from 2002 to 2022. Statista.
  6. Walker C. 2021. Soccer has overtaken ice hockey to become the fourth most popular sport in the US. Daily Mail Online.
  7. Average TV viewership of Major League Baseball World Series games in the United States from 2000 to 2022. Statista.
  8. Love J. 2019. How Popular Is Baseball, Really? The New York Times
  9. Brown M. 2021. Despite Myths Baseball Is ‘Dying,’ Here’s Why MLB Is Primed For Growth. Forbes.
  10. Levy D. 2014. World Cup Ratings Show America Loves Big Events…And Yes, Soccer Too. Bleacher Report.
  11. Number of participants in outdoor soccer in the United States from 2011 to 2021. Statista.
  12. Young J. 2021. Major League Soccer viewership is up, now it needs networks to pay more. CNBC.
  13. Walker C. 2021. Soccer has overtaken ice hockey to become the fourth most popular sport in the US. Daily Mail Online.
  14. National Hockey League Stanley Cup games average TV viewership from 2008 to 2022. Statista.
  15. Number of ice hockey participants in the United States from 2010 to 2021. Statista.
  16. Youngest Americans are big fans of boxing and MMA, UMass Lowell poll finds. Boston Business Journal, 2017.
  17. PR. 2017. The Washington Post, University of Massachusetts Lowell to release major national poll on sports fandom. The Washington Post.
  18. Hawkins J. 2022. A Dearth of Extra Programming is Failing Golf Fans and the Game. SI.
  19. U.S. average TV viewership of major golf tournaments* in 2021. Statista.
  20. Number of viewers of the U.S. Open golf final round in the United States from 2019 to 2021. Statista.
  21. Number of participants in tennis in the United States from 2010 to 2021. Statista.
  22. U.S. tennis participation surges in 2020, Physical Activity Council (PAC) report finds. USTA, 2021.
  23. Paulsen. 2019. US Open finals, full tournament, at multi-year highs. Sports Media Watch.
  24. Motorsports Industry Overview [pdf].
  25. Brittle C. 2022. Report: F1 US TV ratings up 35% on ESPN. BlackBook.
  26. Hall A. 2022. Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix on ABC Attracts Record 2.6 Million Viewers; Largest Live F1 U.S. TV Audience Ever. ESPN Press Room.
  27. Average television viewership of the NASCAR Cup Series, IndyCar Series and Formula 1 in the United States in 2022. Statista.
  28. Company Information. WWE.
  29. Otterson J. 2022. WWE’s ‘Monday Night Raw’ Ratings Spike to Two-Year High. Variety.

About The Author