No matter what the sport may be, it’s likely that the United States has produced some of the best athletes in the game. While team sports such as rugby and soccer may be notable exceptions, it’s tough to match US players in individual disciplines.
Golf, tennis and track and field athletics are clear examples where American sportsmen and women dominate the current scene. It’s been the case for many years but, just what is the biggest sport within the country?
Gridiron leads the way
While the very name ‘American Football’ suggests an idiosyncratic sport, the game is played all over the world. It’s also the one US discipline that attracts a huge global audience with millions tuning in to the Super Bowl from around the world.
The game began, as many American sports do, among the colleges in the second half of the 19th century. Growth was steady but American Football really took off with the introduction of the NFL in 1920. This is the top division in the world and the one that attracts the best teams and the biggest players.
The NFL is also a big deal as far as the betting industry are concerned with every possible sportsbook publishing markets throughout the year. As of 2021, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are the two most successful teams with six Championships each and those sides are frequently listed among the favorites.
While American football leads the way in terms of sheer numbers of fans, there are many who feel that baseball is the country’s true sport, the MLB odds always attract plenty of attention, with the competition’s most successful team, the New York Yankees, usually among the favorites. Once again, the US provides the biggest division in the world with the best global teams competing in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Baseball is certainly the oldest organised sport in the United States. MLB was established in 1903 and it built on the strides made by its predecessor the National League which began in 1876.
The current format of Major League Baseball features 30 teams, including 29 from the US plus Canada’s Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees have won an impressive 27 World Series’.
Jumping Through Hoops
In American sport, there are four major leagues: Following on from the NFL and MLB is the National Basketball Association which provides the elite division on the court. In terms of followers within the country, basketball is the third most popular sport but it’s the one which is most widely played in other parts of the world.
The NBA was founded as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1946. Like its MLB counterpart, the current edition of the competition also includes 29 teams from the US and one from Canada. Both the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers hold the record for most NBA Championships with 17 wins apiece.
On the Ice
Completing the list of elite sports in the United States is Ice Hockey. This is the fourth most popular sport in the country and the National Hockey League, represents the highest division. The NHL was originally set up back in 1917 and a current list of 24 US teams are joined by seven sides from across the border in Canada.
Like most sports on this list, ice hockey has also brought success to the United States at Olympic level. US teams have claimed a number of medals including women’s Gold at the most recent games at Pyeongchang in 2018.
A Lone Path
In terms of individual sports, the United States has dominated the world of golf at certain times. The great Tiger Woods is the most successful player of the modern era and, when he claimed an emotional US Masters win in 2019, Tiger enjoyed success in a Major tournament for the 15th time.
American golfers occupy each of the top three slots in relation to overall Major winners. Jack Nicklaus leads the way with 18 victories while Walter Hagen slots in behind Woods with 11 wins. US dominance is backed by TV viewing figures and participation is high among college athletes.
Sources suggest that golf is ranked eighth highest in terms of popularity and that makes it the second most popular individual sport in the United States.
In the Ring
Boxing outranks golf in the overall list and that’s no great surprise when you consider the great fighters that America has produced. The most obvious, and most charismatic of them all was Muhammad Ali who energised the heavyweight scene in the 1970s. Ali fought great opponents along the way including Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
Prior to Ali’s success, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano were among the world’s best fighters. Added to that list are more recent boxers including Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes and Floyd Mayweather.
A Matter of Choice
Popularity charts are interesting to look at but, ultimately, it all comes down to personal preferences. Some sports fans may prefer the patience and tactics of American football while others would rather watch the pace and intensity of basketball.
Individual sports also hold great affection for US viewers with golf, boxing and tennis towards the top of the tree. In any sport, success is a big motivator and the fact that America has so many great athletes in contention is guaranteed to ensure a following.
Overall, the good news is that American sports fans have an abundance of choice and, there are many great sportsmen and women to follow as they seek out more trophies.