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Top 25 List World’s Most Popular Sports

25 World’s Most Popular Sports – Sport is any physical activity that usually involves a competition. As every individual has individual likings for a particular Sport, no matter whether he plays it or not, ranking the sports prove to be not less than a conundrum for the sports journalists of today. All those Sports journalists or Sports aficionados, who put one sport ahead of another, take into account some criteria. But, that result into not definite rankings for the sport. Nowadays, the pundits of Sport are on the same page to use definite criteria so that an unequivocal ranking for the sport can be achieved.

rank Sport Estimated Fans Regional Popularity
1. Soccer / Association Football 3.5 Billion Europe, Africa, Asia, America.
2. Cricket 2.5 Billion Asia, Australia, UK.
3. Field Hockey 2 Billion Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia.
4. Tennis 1 Billion Europe, Asia, America.
5. Volleyball 900 Million Europe, Australia, Asia, America.
6. Table Tennis 850 Million Europe, Africa, Asia, America.
7. Baseball 500 Million America, Japan.
8. Golf 450 Million Europe, Asia, America, Canada.
9 Basketball 400 Million America.
10 American Football 400 Million Europe, Africa, Asia, America, Australia.

25 World’s Most Popular Sports

The Criteria Used to Rank Sport

  • Global Presence and Spectators
  • TV Audience and Viewership
  • The Professional Leagues Across the Globe
  • Deals of Television Rights
  • The Average Sportsperson’s Salary in Top Leagues of a Particular Sport
  • Deals Regarding Sponsorship and Endorsement
  • The Number of Countries where the Sport is Played
  • Social Media Base
  • Hits on the Websites of a Particular Sport’s Website
  • Accessibility to the People in General Across the Globe

These are the factors that we have considered while ranking the top 25 Sports of the world. It is important here to note that these factors include, but may not limit to the criteria used to evaluate sport of one kind.

#1. Football/Soccer:

football-most-popular-sport

Football or soccer is the undisputed leader in the pool of Sport. In fact, even the second most popular game is not even close to matching the appeal that football provides. There are so many reasons that contribute to the enormous popularity of this sport. Though some reasons are obvious, nonetheless these are worth addressing and taken into consideration.

The evolutionary history of man dovetails its Pattern of Play. Man, in his evolutionary history have hunted and fought in groups giving the concept of a team spirit. Football fits in that team effort perfectly. Cricket though could also be called as a team sport, but what makes soccer ahead of cricket is the fact that in cricket the players function more individually. In football, players are dependent on their team and hence teamwork becomes crucial, and that fits our evolutionary history.

Let’s take a glance at some of the telling statistics that will put every argument to rest and prove beyond any reasonable doubt that football is the most popular sport is the world:

Maximum Number of Spectators and Viewers: The World Cup for football has got the distinction of being one of the most watched competitions around the world. If we take an example of the FIFA World Cup, 2014, more than 3.9 billion people saw or viewed the World Cup worldwide. The number of spectators and viewers is even more if we count the final of 2014 World Cup, it was a whopping 700 million people across the globe.

Biggest Prize Money and Bonuses: Soccer attracts biggest prize money and bonuses. In UEFA Champions League, $1.5 Billion gets awarded in prize money and bonuses in every single year. Rather, four of the top 5 competitions with the highest prize money are from football events, namely Champions League, FIFA World Cup, Europa League and UEFA Euro.

Most Expensive Television Rights: This is also one of the dominant reasons why Soccer rules the roost. The English top football division, English Premier League is the most-watched professional sports league in the world. It gets telecast in more than 200 territories around the world with more than 5 billion viewers. SkySport and BT Sport had to pay more than £5.3 billion in order to get the premier league rights for three consecutive years in the UK.

The Biggest Kit Deal: The giant Sports kit supplier Adidas pays an astronomical amount (£75 million a year) to the Manchester United which is the biggest deal in the world.

Most Professional Leagues: As more than 50 countries have their own professional leagues, football has got the immense potential to boost the professional leagues in the world.

Highest Salary: The players of soccer are richer than their counterparts. The salary that an established footballer gets can be very much understood from the fact that Ronaldo and Messi get £300,000 in a week by their respective clubs.

Richest Teams: That football teams are the richest can be easily understood from the fact that around 30 clubs feature in the top 50 lists of the most resourceful teams.

Most Popular on Social Media: There is no any other sports team that is as popular as football is on social media. Soccer teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona have more than 100 million fan followers.

#2. Basketball:

basketball-most-popular-sport-in-the-world

Basketball is next only to football. This is the sport that drives its audience off their seats. It is outstandingly popular in almost every country in Asia, Europe, and the USA. Knowing about the game is too simple to puzzle any of its lovers. This is the sport that can be played both indoor and outdoor, but mainly it is played along the street.

Here are some of the interesting statistics that make this sport get an edge over the other sports:

High Number of Professional Leagues Across the Globe: As far as the number of professional leagues is concerned, it is next only to Football. Among these NBA is the biggest one, followed by NBA, Liga ACB, Heba a1, Lega Nacional, Lega Basket Serie A, Turkish Basketball League, Chinese Basketball Association and French Pro a League.

Powerful Sports League: The American basketball League, or NBA is the third biggest professional league. Its revenue is over $4.75 billion.

Very High Salary: The average annual salary of American Basketball League is around $4.4 million a year that is the second best average wage around the globe.

High Endorsement Deals: Not only the salary, endorsement deal is also very high in basketball. Some established players of the game like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Lebron James feature in the top 10 list of the highest paid athletes. Their endorsement deals make their annual income more than $50 million a year.

High-rise Popularity: The popularity of basketball is rising at a great pace. A substantial number of professional leagues are now establishing in almost every nook and corner of the world. In the eastern Europian countries like Poland, Hungry, etc. basketball is regarded as the second most favourite sport.

#3.Cricket:

cricket-third-most-popular-sport-in-the-world

The place of cricket is formidable, both in terms of The place of cricket is formidable, both in terms of a man following and the playing numbers. There is, however, a number of contributing factors that make it earn a coveted place among the pool of sports. The first and foremost factor is that playing this game necessitates just a bat and ball and it can be played even in the smallest dimensions, like the most congested street. Another important factor that contributes heavily to the popularity of this game is better infrastructure. There are a number of coaching centres for this game vis a vis any other game. In the countries like India and Pakistan that constitute 20 percent of world population, cricket is more like a religion.

Here are some of the significant statistics that make this sport the special one:

Third Most Watched Sport: Cricket is the next only to FIFA World Cup and Rugby World Cup when it comes to the number of spectators and viewers.

Twenty-Twenty Professional League: T20 leagues have definitely brought the popularity of cricket to an all-time high level. As almost all the cricket-playing nations have already established their Twenty-Twenty league, it is all set to soar even more in the years to come.

The USA the Newest Participating Nation: Almost a year ago, three shorter former exhibition games were held in the US in New York, Houston, and Los Angeles. The response was terrific and hence the cricket lovers of this country can expect good fortune years ahead.

Big Cricketing Nations: In the countries of Indian-sub continent like India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh cricket is played with utter enthusiasm. Also in the countries like England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa cricket is a second favorite sport. Cricket is equally famous in the countries like West Indies, Zimbabwe. Kenya, Holland, etc. Given the number of cricket-playing nations that we have, the future of this game seems to be bright.

#4. Tennis

tennis-most-popular-individual-sport-in-the-world

Tennis, unlike the sports discussed above, is an individual game that has global reach. Its popularity has reached over hundred countries. Given the telecast and sponsorship that it gets, it is regarded as one of the richest sports in the world. Millions of people play this sport for recreation and tournaments. Some of the celebrated starts of this sport include Federer, Nadal, Sampras, Agassi, Hinges, Williams sister, Graff and much more.

Here are some of the interesting statistics that make this sport get an edge over the other sports:

  • Worldwide Reach: With more than 1 billion followers worldwide, tennis has become one of the most popular sports.
  • Very High Prize Money: Almost all the four Grand Slams, namely Australia Open, French Open, US Open and Wimbledon offer huge prize money to their respective winners.
  • All Season Sport: Tennis events, divided into four categories, namely ATP 250, ATP 500, ATP Masters and Grand Slams, are played in the every season of the year across the globe.
  • Gender Equality: Gender is not an obstacle when it comes to playing this game.
  • Handsomely Paid: Some established players of the game, like Maria Sharapova and Sarena Williams are the tennis players whose names are listed in the top 20 highest paid athletes.
  • Good Number of Representations: Approx 50 countries are represented in top 100 tennis ranking in both men’s and women categories. Tennis players of both the genders from not less than 30 countries have won Grans Slam at least once.

#5. Athletics

athletics-worlds-most-popular-sport

Athletics is the sport that includes several types of physical activities, like Running, long jump, etc. Since Athletics-based sports are the most watched event, it is an integral part of almost all the Olympic event.

There are some of the interesting statistics that gives this sport an edge over the other sports. Some of these are as follows:

  • Equally Popular with both Men and Women: Athletics is like tennis for being equally popular with both genders.
  • High Representation: If we take into consideration the Olympic events, Athletics is the most represented sport having participation from almost all the countries.
  • Most Watched Event: 100-metre final gold medal spirit race happens to be the most watched event in an Olympic.

#6. Rugby

rugby-most-popular-sports-in-new-zealand-australia

Rugby is one of the most famous sports in the home nations of the UK, viz England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. It is equally popular in the countries of southern hemisphere like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

There are however some of the interesting statistics that gives this sport a decisive edge over the other sports. Some of these are as follows:

  • Very Popular Professional leagues: Today, France has got the best Rugby league and there are a number of highest paid players who play exclusively for the French clubs. The game is gaining its ground rapidly in the countries like Japan, Argentina and even in the United Nations.
  • Very Rich Sports Club: In the year 2015, Rugby World Cup was the most talked about event. England and Wales that host the match became able to generate £250 million in revenue which was amazingly exciting.
  • Second Most Attended and Viewed Match: 2015 Rugby World Cup was next only to FIFA World Cup, 2014 in the number of persons who attended or viewed the match. A record 2.47 million tickets were sold.
  • Impressive Social Media Presence: In 2015 World Cup, social media response was also quite impressive. On twitter, #rwc2015 was used on every two seconds.
  • The Most Watched Sports Event in the UK: Nearly 8.7 million UK viewers viewed the ITV’s coverage of the opening ceremony and the opening England match.

Highest ever TV ratings in the UK: ITV’s coverage of the opening ceremony and opening England match was watched by 8.7 million UK viewers on average making it the most watched sports event in the UK.

#7. Formula 1:

formula-1-most-popular-motosport

550 million people tune in every year at some stage of Formula 1 season which runs from March to November. F1 is by far the most popular motoSport in the world.

It might not be the most accessible sport in the world but in terms of sheer following Formula 1 is the undisputed biggest motor racing sport. With around 20 grand Prix races every year in 20 different countries it is one of the most global sport around. Although the recent trend in TV viewership numbers is going down but Formula 1 still racks in healthy 500 million a year. the decline from around a billion to 500 million is largely down to Formula 1 turning to PPV in many countries.

Most lucrative motor-sport: As far as the yearly revenue is concerned Formula 1 generate somewhere between $1.5 to $2 billion a year. Which is soundly distributed among 10 f1 teams who in return spend between $100 million to $500 million a season on elite level motor engineers, research & development and of course on driver salaries?

Massive driver contracts: On formula 1 drivers makes around $5 million a year while the top drivers like Sebastian Vettel who has a $50 million a year contract with Ferrari, current world champion Lewis Hamilton who signed a new deal worth $40 million a year two of the highest paid athletes around.

Cost of hosting a formula 1 grand Prix is around $250 million for a 10 year period but that does not mean F1 is short on hopeful countries. Every year if one circuit withdraw a few more go into bidding war to host f1 grand Prix.

#8. Boxing

boxing-is-most-popular-combat-sport

Only combat sport in the list, boxing is truly global just like Tennis and Athletics. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao has dominated the rich list in last 10 years while boxing also boost some of the greatest athletes to have ever lived. Boxing is major sport in countries like USA, Mexico, Latin America, United Kingdom, Philippines, Japan, Russia and some eastern European countries like Ukraine, Poland, Romania.

Amature boxing is also part of Olympics and it is one of the popular events during every Olympic event. Unlike professional boxing, Amature boxing is represented by more countries in Olympics making it a global sport and one of the most accessible around the world.

Most watched combat sport: Since boxing a combat sport it is not everyone cups of tea, but if you like combat sports chances are Boxing is your favourite sport. Mostly boxing is everyone’s second favourite sport or at-least they take interest in it specially during big fights.

Women Boxing: It is quite popular with women as well with plenty of famous women champions. Laila Ali and Lucia Rijker are the most famous women world champions.

Highest grossing fight of all times: Floyd Mayweather vs Many Pacquiao was the highest grossing boxing fight of all times generating over $400 million in revenue. While Mayweather took home record $250 from nights work while Pacquiao earned $120. Both fighters has kind of dominated Forbes athlete rich-list for best part of last 8 years.

#9. Ice Hockey

ice-hockey-most-popular-winter-sport

By far the biggest winter sport in the world and although it is popular or played in specific countries like Canada, Russia, USA, Scandinavian countries like (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden) some easter European countries like Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic it can still boost huge popularity specially during the world championships and European championships.

NHL is the biggest professional ice hockey league in the world based in Canada and US where players from all parts of the world represent NHL teams.

NHL is one of the biggest professional sports league with over $4.1 billion yearly revenue keeping it in the top 5 pro sports leagues like NFL, Premier League, NBA

#10: Volleyball

most-popular-sport-volleyball

With no intricacies involved, this sport is as simple as you like. And probably it is the simplicity of this sport that makes it so famous among its fans. Take a trip to the hunger struck African countries or try going to the beaches of Australia, you will find people playing this sport everywhere. On a professional level, players with tall heights are preferred because of the extra reach they have so if your height is somewhere to the north of 6 feet, you should fancy your chances in this sport.

Most number of national federations (200): Having said that Volleyball has more national federations than any other sport with over 200 registered with FIVB.

Most popular in developing countries: It is quite popular in some of the developing countries with the likes of Brazil, Turkey, South Korea, some easter European nations like Poland, Ukraine other European countries like France, Italy and even in Asian region like China, Japan.

#11. Golf:

golf-is-10th-most-popular-sport-in-the-world

Just lagging by few million fans, golf is the 8th most famous game. A very docile sport involving no real physical competition and can be played by people of all ages. For too long American Golf Star, Tiger Woods, overawed all his competitors through his exquisite playing abilities but now the sport has got some more representatives who are spreading this game to the farthest of places. Did I forget to mention the amount of money this sport involves? I shouldn’t have because golf players earn millions of dollars in prize money and if they are as good as Tiger Woods chances are you will be richest athlete on planet.

Game for developed countries: Golf is a major sport in some very developed countries like US, UK, Japan, Korea and even in South Africa. Just like tennis Golf has its four majors and the unique Ryder cup where US golfers go head to head with European as a team.

Massive earning potential: Golf’s very own Tiger Woods dominated the athlete rich-list for the best part of last 15 years largely down to his very lucrative sponsorship deals with Nike, EA Sports, Gillette and countless other endorsement deals. So there were our top 10

Most Popular Sports In The World (Countdown 11 to 50)

Most Popular Sports In The World (Countdown 11 to 50)
RANK# SPORT DETAILS
11 Baseball  Most lucrative sport in USA and Japan. MLB (US) and Nippon League (Japan) are two of the top 10 biggest pro league of all sports
12 American Football   Biggest sport in the USA and the most lucrative and powerful professional sports league of all sports is NFL which generates over $10 billion a year in revenue. Super bowl is the most watched sports event in the US.
13 MMA  Mixed Martial Arts are getting more and more popular with the emergence of UFC. Its a big sport in Brazil, USA while spreading across Europe slowly. It highly rewarding financially and might overtake Boxing in a few years.
14 MotoGP  It is one of the motorcycle racing series. MotoGP is the premium class competition with huge TV following around the world. Mostly popular in Spain, Italy, Netherlands but growing in England, USA, Germany, and Middle-east.
15 Field Hockey Field Hockey has fallen from grace even where it was most popular India, Pakistan. It still has some varied interest but nothing like 20 years ago where it was a major sport in India, Pakistan and fairly popular in Australia, Malaysia, Holland, Germany, England and South Africa.
16 Badminton Huge popularity in Asia specifically countries like Malaysia, China, India, Korea etc. Its more of a hobby sport in Europe and Americas
17 Cycling  Very popular in some major European countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, England and Netherlands. Tour de France is one of the most watched competitions in the world. Cycling is part of school games around the world.
18 Swimming  Another fairly global sport but only attracts popularity during Olympic games. US. Michael Phelps is the most famous athlete in swimming having won record 22 gold medals in Olympic games.
19 Snooker  Its very region specific game with only China and England organizing major competitions in Snooker. But it is also a major hobby game which is played everywhere around the world on a non-professional level.
20 Table Tennis  Professional only China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India has some interest in Table Tennis but in terms of casual playing, it is one of the most played sports in the world as a hobby.
21 Gymnastics  Some interest in all the major countries like Korea, US, Japan, China, and Germany. Like many other Olympics game, Gymnastic only get some news time during Olympics.
22 Handball Some interest in European countries like Russia, France Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania and a few other eastern European nations. Some countries also have semi pro-leagues but only tv coverage is during world championships
23 Wrestling  Its more of a cultural sport in some parts of the world. In the US its very popular among teens growing up. It is played on fairly large level in Japan, Turkey, Russian, India and Pakistan etc  (don’t confuse it with WWE Wrestling)
24 Skiing  Downhill Skiing is a big event in Europe and its also one of the biggest winter sports.
25 Horse Racing  Horse Racing is fairly medium size sport in US, UK, UAE and Australia. Mainly a gambling sport

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