Top 10 Most Popular Sports In The World In 2017

Added by Edan Barak on Dec 11, 2014
most popular sports in the world

The concept of sports can be dated back to around 2000 BC, where gymnastics was probably one of the first - and most popular - sports of that era. In those days sports were simple games of endurance and skill, and acted as training grounds as well as competitions for the entertainment of the masses. Some of these sports, such as the early Mesoamerican ballgame, were incredibly violent, even deadly, and had ritualistic meaning to their cultures.

There are a few ways of going about mapping the most popular sports in the world. On the one hand, we could define the term "popular" as "most watched" - in which case we would try to measure the fan base for each type of sport. Another option could be to measure the "most played" sports in the world - in which case we would have a much more difficult time, as we'd have to somehow determine how many people are playing each sport, on average, per country.

Today's list will attempt to come to a conclusion regarding the most viewed sports around the globe, as a function of the number of fans - as estimated through participation and media coverage. This way we can use existing data sets to arrive at the most accurate conclusion.

10 American Football

Approximate # of fans: 400 million

The national obsession of millions of Americans has propelled this sport onto the list - outside of North America, its impact is negligible. Many estimates indicate that, of the 400 million fans, nearly half come from the United States and Canada. Evolving from rugby in the late 19th century, the sport was seen mainly as a club or collegiate sport until the establishment of the NFL in 1920. The sport includes variants such as Canadian Football and Arena League Football, with players moving between these leagues at times. Top historic teams include the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, and San Francisco 49ers. There are no teams outside of North America, although the NFL previously had NFL Europe, and plays games in England every year.

9 Basketball

Approximate # of fans: 400 million

Developed in America in the late 19th century, the first century of the sport was dominated by Americans. As it has slowly spread throughout the world, other countries have developed great talent - Lithuania, Argentina and Australia have all become competitive. The growth is partially spurred by the urbanization of the globe, as basketball is one of few sports that can be played in minimal amounts of space in urban environments. International leagues in Greece, Israel, and Japan now attract American players who can't quite make it into the American National Basketball Association or are on the down slope of their careers, while top talent from countries such as Germany (Dirk Nowitzki), France (Tony Parker), Spain (Pau and Marc Gasol) and Canada (Steve Nash) are making an impact in America, including winning MVP titles.

Relevant: 20 inspirational basketball quotes.

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