Sports have been at the core of human culture for over 3,000 years. Even as far back as the ancient Greeks, sporting events, team sports, and one-on-one matches have provided a way for men to measure themselves against each other as well as prepare for warfare.
Upper-class women began to partake as early as the 1800s in archery, tennis, and golf, among other sporting endeavors. Sports like rugby, basketball, and tennis from centuries ago have persisted over the years in their popularity for spectators.
What are the top ten most popular sports in the world? The most efficient and objective way to compare popularity is to look at the number of fans. Some on the list will surely surprise you.
#10. Golf – Sport Of The Elite?
Golf is unique among the ten most popular sports because it represents the accomplishments of the individual as opposed to a team. Also, in addition to 390 million spectators, golf is host to numerous participants from the young to the elderly.
Professional golfers live on tournament winnings. Those at the top of the game supplement their earnings further with sponsorships and endorsements.
Golf involves using specific clubs to maneuver a small ball into shallow cups called holes. Each attempt to drive or tee the ball into a specified hole is a stroke. Par is the gold standard designation for how many strokes a particular hole requires. Players attempt to reach as near to par as possible or even below it. The person with the fewest strokes over a course is the winner. The tournament standard is usually 18 holes, although casual golfers commonly play nine in one or more sets.
Many people consider golf a sport for the well-to-do. It enjoys its largest fanbase in the United States and Canada as well as Europe and Japan.
#9 & #8. Rugby And American Football Are Tied
Despite its overwhelming popularity in the US, American football barely made the top 10 list with 400 million fans. Its similar counterpart, rugby, has a following in Europe, namely France and the UK, and Australia and New Zealand. Both sports are male-dominated and enjoy high television viewership in the countries where they are popular. The biggest events for American football and rugby are the Superbowl and the Rugby World Cup, respectively.
Simply football in the United States, American football takes place on a rectangular field 120 yards long marked by 10-yard increments. Eleven players on the offense attempt to drive an oblong football to a set of goalposts at either end of the field. Eleven defenders try to block scoring attempts by intercepting the ball, tackling the carrier, or otherwise blocking progression. If the defense succeeds in stopping advance by the opponents or forces a turnover, the offense of that team gets their chance. If the offense can advance at least 10 yards in a set of four turns or downs, they get another four attempts. A goal is a touchdown worth seven points with other scoring methods possible.
Vaguely similar to football, rugby involves no forward passing. Players attempt to move the ball towards a goal to score. The dead zone behind the goal of an opponent is worth five points.
#7. Baseball Is As American As Apple Pie?
Baseball is prominent in Japan, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba as well as the US. Its 500 million fans and greater country outreach make it slightly more popular than American football, but it does not enjoy as much attention during its offseason.
While baseball remains a male-dominated sport, interest among young athletic girls is rising. Teams comprise of nine players apiece who alternate between batting or hitting the ball and fielding it. Four numbered plates occupy the corners of a 90-foot square or diamond. Once a player, the batter, hits the ball that the pitcher delivers, he or she attempts to advance across bases in a counterclockwise direction.
The ultimate goal of baseball is a fourth base, or home plate, worth a point. Bases are safe zones and fielders try to prevent the escape of a hit ball and score outs by tagging the base runner, catching a ball on the fly, and throwing the ball to a base in advance of the batter. If a batter is able to advance to fourth base after a hit, he or she has scored a home run. Pitchers have a great potential influence on the outcome of games.
Major seasonal events in baseball include the World Baseball Classic and the Baseball World Cup.
#6. Table Tennis A Sport For The Populus
Table Tennis enjoys not only a huge fanbase of 850 to 900 million but also has widespread participation. Its ready access makes it highly popular in urban areas around the world. Men and women seem to enjoy and partake in table tennis to equal degrees.
Very similar to ping pong, table tennis is an Olympic sport and realizes its highest viewership during these events.
Africa, North and South America, Asia, and Europe contribute to the popularity of table tennis despite its low impact on the web, television, and the media.
Two players square off against each other across a 9.5 x 5-foot table with a net across the center. They hit a ball back and forth with paddles across the net until someone fails to return. Whoever reaches 11 points first wins the match.
#5. Volleyball – Ground That Ball
With over 900 million fans especially concentrated across the Americas, Europe, Australia, and Asia, volleyball just edges out table tennis for the fifth most popular sport. However, it enjoys a much higher web presence and television viewership during its season and is popular in most countries. While male-dominated in many places, female participation is high in Europe and the Western hemisphere.
Volleyball is a Summer Olympics sport. Six players on each of the two teams play on a court divided by a net. The team who can force the ball to hit the ground on the opposing side wins the point. Each team has three attempts by different players to get the ball back across the net. The best of five sets is the winner and each set is played to 25 points. Play must continue until there is a two-point advantage, even if tallies go above 25 points for each team.
#4. Tennis – 30 to Love, Luv.
The ball is a hollow rubber sphere with a felt cover. The racquet is an instrument that welds your art with the help of a face of tightly-strung cords. And the game is a battle of ball control across a net that divides the court into two opposing sides. You could write a separate book about the code of rules for scoring points and their names.
Tennis is one of the most viewed and played sports in the world, big with both amateurs and professionals. It is a unique sport like its miniature counterpart in that you can play individually or on teams of two.
Major events in tennis include the four big slams, the US Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and Australian Open. However, other events also garner millions of views, making tennis among the most lucrative sports. It is also among the biggest opportunities in sports for women, where females enjoy near equality in recognition, endorsements, participation, and television viewership with their male counterparts.
#3. Basketball – More Difficult Than It Sounds
Although it remains most successful in the US, people around the globe are familiar with and often even play basketball. As its name suggests, the goal is to throw or place the ball through a basket elevated on posts on either end of a 94-foot-long court. Each basket counts for one, two, or three points, depending on the circumstances of the shot.
A fast-paced game, basketball has tremendous TV and internet viewership. Male-dominated on the professional level, females can excel to a limited extent in universities. The largest world events are the Olympic Games, while seasonal playoffs and championships in the NBA are huge in the US.
About 2.2 million fans participate in basketball in one way or another. It has a solid following in China, the Philipines, and Canada.
#2. Cricket – More Glamorous Than Baseball?
Cricket and basketball are very close in popularity. In fact, tennis, basketball, and cricket have interchanged spots a few times depending on the era and the statistics that polls used to determine their popularity.
Cricket, similarly to baseball, involves teams alternating turns as batters and fielders. In cricket, the pitcher is the bowler. Cricket match points are typically in the hundreds.
Cricket has about 2.3 billion fans with a major block of them in India, South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. There are both male and female teams, with viewership still more overwhelming for men’s cricket. The ICC World Cricket Cup brings together the top competitors every four years.
#1. Soccer – Everyone Plays It, the World Watches
Soccer, or Association football, is by far the most popular sport in the world, boasting 3.5 billion fans from nearly every country. Soccer also reigns supreme as a minor league introductory sport for young girls and boys. Major soccer leagues exist in most countries.
As a spectator sport, soccer garners a lot of television and internet viewers as well as media attention. It also has the largest number of participants in the form of amateur and professional players.
Eleven players on each team attempt to move the ball without the use of their hands to their opponent’s goal at either end of the field. The playing field or pitch is usually about 125 meters or close to 140 yards long. Just a couple of the largest soccer events are the UEFA League Championships and the European Cup.
The top ten most popular sports vary among different groups depending upon the technical analysis of data. Some enthusiasts account for country size among participants and others place more emphasis on the availability of play for the average person. A few interesting and prominent sports did not make our cut. Formula racing has been as high as the top five, but volleyball surged past it. Ice hockey alone ranks just behind golf, but if you combine it with field hockey, its popularity is No.3. Boxing is another sport often in the top 10 mix.