Did you know that 70 percent of Americans are sports fans? In 2021, more than 57.5 million people tuned into digital live content at least once a month.
Outside of the United States, sports are also incredibly popular. Take the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, for example, it had a global audience of over 3 billion. While it’s a slight decrease from the previous Olympics, it’s still a staggering number. The opening ceremony alone drew more than 16.7 million viewers on NBC.
But have you ever wondered which sports are the most popular? How many fans they have? Because that’s what we’ll be going over in this post. Keep reading to learn more!
Top 10 Most Popular Sports In 2024
Without further ado, here are the top ten most popular sports in the world.
10. Golf – 450 Million Fans
Golf is the most popular sport in the world with more than 450 million fans worldwide. A club-and-ball sport, it originated in 15th-century Scotland, though its exact origins are unknown.
Unlike other ball games, golf does not utilize a standard playing area. Rather, courses consist of various terrains, all of which are an essential part of the game. There are two main types of golf courses- 9 holes or 18 holes, each of which consists of a tee box, rough, putting green, and other hazards.
While many holes can be seen directly from the teeing area, many are hidden to increase the level of difficulty.
Generally speaking, one group will contain one to four people playing the ground. Depending on the pace of play, it can take up to four hours for an 18-hole round or two hours for a 9-hole round.
The game starts when a player puts a ball into play by hitting it with a golf club on the tee. Ultimately, the goal is to get the golf ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible. Various obstacles such as grass and sand may also impede players as they progress through the round.
While golf is popular worldwide, it is particularly popular in the U.S., UK, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Austria, and Canada.
9. Rugby – 475 Million Fans
Rugby is second on our list with more than 475 million fans worldwide. A contact team sport, it originated in Warwickshire, England, in the early 19th century.
Unlike other ball sports, it allows players to run across the field with the ball in hand. Ultimately, the goal is to advance the ball into the opposition’s end zone, where the goalpost is located. While there are different variations, the most common type of game is played between two teams, both of which consist of 15 players.
Generally speaking, players in a team are divided into seven backs and eight forwards; the former defends the back line while the latter is responsible for gaining possession of the ball.
While rugby was originally popular in Ireland and Great Britain, it has since spread to other countries including France, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, international matches have taken place since the early 1870s. Take the Rugby World Cup, for example, it is held every four years. There’s also the Rugby Championship and the Six Nations Championship, the latter of which occurs in Europe.
8. Baseball – 500 Million Fans
Baseball has its origins in older bat-and-ball games, which were played in England in the mid-18th century. The game was eventually brought over to North America by immigrants, where they developed the modern version. By the late nineteenth century, it had become the national sport of the U.S.
A bat-and-ball sport, it’s played between two teams, who take turns fielding and batting. In each play, the pitcher throws a ball that the batting team tries to hit; their goal is to hit the ball away from the other team’s players so that their players can advance to the different bases. As for the defensive team, their goal is to prevent the batters from running to the bases.
To do that, they try to get the runners or batters “out”, which forces them out of the field.
Currently, the MLB is the highest level of professional baseball in Canada and the U.S., with teams in the American League and National League. There are three main divisions: Central, West, and East.
In fact, the World Baseball Classic is one of the biggest international sports competitions in the world.
7. Basketball – 825 Million Fans
Basketball is a popular team sport with more than 825 million fans across the globe. The game was invented by James Naismith, a Canadian physical education teacher, in 1891 in Massachusetts. His goal was to create a sport that students would be able to play indoors during the winter months; he also wanted something that’s less injury-prone.
After publishing the rules of the game, the first basketball match was held on December 21, 1891. The sport quickly became established and by the 20th century, had become popular in many countries, including the United States. By 1946, the American National Basketball Association was established.
A team sport, it’s played with two teams, each of which tries to throw a basketball through the other team’s hoop. The ball is advanced across the rectangular court through dribbles or it can be passed to a teammate. In total, each team consists of five players, the tallest being the center,
Some of the biggest international basketball events include the Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament and the FIBA Basketball World Cup.T THe Women’s Olympic Basketball Tournament and FIBA Women’s World Cup also features some of the best U.S. teams.
6. Table Tennis – 875 Million Fans
Table Tennis is the sixth most popular sport in the world with more than 875 million fans. Also known as ping pong, the sport originated in England during the late 19th century and was often played by the upper class. Makeshift versions of the game were eventually developed by military officers in the 1860s, who brought the sport back with them. Several decades later, the International Table Tennis Federation was founded.
In 1988, table tennis was officially made an Olympic sport, with women’s and men’s singles as event categories. Men’s and women’s teams have also existed since 2008.
Nowadays, the largest international tournaments for professional players include the World Championships, which were started in 1926, the WTT Grand Smashes, and the Olympic Games.
While table tennis is played across the world, it’s the most popular in China. If anything, they’re known for producing some of the most successful players in the sport’s history. Take Deng Yaping, for example, he has won every professional title in the sport.
Aside from China, the sport is also popular in Japan, Korea, Germany, and Sweden. Some of the biggest names in the sport include Jan-Ove Waldner, Liu Guoliang, Deng Yaping, Wang Liqin, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, and Fan Zhendong.
5. Volleyball – 900 Million Fans
Volleyball is the fifth most popular sport in the world. In the United States alone, there are more than 37 million players. Not only that but many also tune into live game streams. Take the Women’s Volleyball Championship, for example, it drew more than 20 million viewers in 2020.
Originally known as “mintonette”, the sport originated in the late 1890s in Massachusetts and was created by the director of the YMCA William George Morgan.
A team sport, it’s played between two teams of six, each of which tries to score points by sending the ball to the ground on the other side. Each game consists of five sets, the last of which goes to 15, with the team winning the most matches being the winner (a team must win a set by at least two points). Depending on the level of competition, however, there may be fewer sets.
Currently, the biggest volleyball tournaments include the Olympic Games, FIVB Volleyball World Nations League, FIVB World Grand Championship, FIVB World Cup, and FIVB Volleyball World League.
4. Tennis – 1 Billion Fans
Tennis originated in Northern France during the 12th century. Unlike the modern version, which is played with a racket, the initial sport was a handball game where players would hit the ball with their hands or glove. It wasn’t until the late 1870s that it was modified to be played on an outdoor court.
In 1881, the United States Tennis Association (formerly known as the United States National Lawn Tennis Association) was formed. Not long afterward, the first men’s singles championships were held in Newport, Rhode Island. By the end of the decade, it had also become popular in France, and Australia. In fact, they now host two of the most prestigious tennis events in the world- the French Open and the Australian Open.
Nowadays, tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world with millions of recreational players acoss the globe. Not only that but it’s also a popular spectator sport. Aside from the French Open and Australian Open, the US Open National Championship is also popular with some of the world’s best tennis athletes competing.
3. Field Hockey – 2 Billion Fans
Although field hockey was played since the middle ages in The Netherlands, Scotland, and England, the modern game grew in popularity in the English public school system in the nineteenth century. The Hockey Association was founded in 1886 and the first international match took place in 1895 between Ireland and Wales when the Irish team won by three goals to nil.
The game was inaugurated as an Olympic sport in 1908 and the competition was dominated by India and Pakistan until 1968. With the introduction of synthetic pitches in the 1970’s the domination of those two nations ended as artificial surfaces were too expensive for developing nations, and other nations began to challenge the previous masters of the game, most notably The Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Spain.
Despite their lack of form in recent years, Pakistan, where field hockey is the national sport, holds an unbroken record of four World Cup wins to this day and many of the sport’s two billion fans are from there and neighboring India.
2. Cricket – 2.5 Billion Fans
The exact origins of Cricket are not known, however, it is believed to have originally been a children’s game that was played in England at least as early as 1550. By around 1610 it had begun to be played by adults and its popularity grew.
Matches were often held between neighboring villages on a casual basis and as the British Empire grew, so did the popularity of Cricket, particularly in Australia and the Indian subcontinent.
By the 19th-century cricket clubs were formed at the county level, with the first being Sussex County Cricket club in 1839, and the sport soon became established in North America, The Caribbean, South Africa, and New Zealand.
1. Soccer – 3.5 Billion Fans
The earliest known form of soccer was played in China during the Han Dynasty, around 200 BC, in a game called ‘Cuju’, which translates literally as ‘Kick Ball’. The modern game was founded in England in 1883 with the formation in Britain of the Football Association (FA), which standardized the rules for competition.
The popularity of the sport grew rapidly throughout Europe and an international governing body, FIFA was founded in Paris in 1904. Today the sport is played at a professional level throughout the World, with an estimated 250 million people playing it regularly at an amateur level. The popularity of the sport grew in South America, Australasia, and Asia, and in 1930 FIFA held the inaugural FIFA World Cup. The competition has been held every four years since then, with the exception of 1942 and 1946 when World War two halted the competition.
Today top players can expect to earn hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and are treated with almost religious respect by legions of passionate fans. Brazil is generally recognized as the most talented national team and leads the World Cup rankings with five wins throughout the competition’s history. Today the sport is followed by 3.5 billion fans Worldwide.