From Football to Golf: Top 10 Most Popular Sports in The World

Alisa Barladyan
07 Mar 2023

Our rating is dedicated to the most popular sports in the world by the number of fans and viewers. No official platforms or sites count the number of sports fans, so there is no accurate statistical data. But approximate figures on different resources can help us understand people's interest in widespread sports. Here are our top 10 most popular sports in the world. 

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LeBron James and Kylian Mbappé
LeBron James and Kylian Mbappé

Most of the sports on our list are ball games. The majority of the games that attract billions of people across the planet are team-based, and only martial artists do not use the extra gear.

Top 10 Most Popular Sports in The World

1Football~4.1 billion
2Basketball~2.7 billion
3Cricket~2.6 billion
4Hockey~1.8 billion
5Tennis~1.5 billion
6Combat sports~1 billion
7Volleyball~600 million
8Baseball~520 million
9American football and rugby~480 million
10Golf~450 million
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Of course, football heads the list. Millions of people follow the football industry every day, from watching matches to reading posts on social media. The most passionate fans travel thousands of kilometers to support their favorite team and experience inexpressible emotions at stadiums.

French national team at the World Cup in Russia
French national team at the World Cup in Russia

Annual polls and independent audience measurements show that football is still the most watchable sport in the whole world. The increase in amateur teams on the planet also confirms it. The geography of the most popular ball game is increasing, the share of women's teams is growing, and the money turnover and the number of sponsors in football can hardly be counted. More than half of the 50 richest sports brands are football clubs. Multi-billion contracts, enormous prices of football players, and huge prize funds are all about football. Football events are so viral that even an absolutely indifferent person must hear about them daily. Numerous football variants, from futsal to beach football, are played in different parts of the planet.

The glossy surface, orange ball, and squeaky sneakers on the court excite more than 2.5 billion people.

In the USA, basketball is even more popular than football. It is inferior even to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), not to mention the main basketball league in the world — the NBA. Simple confirmations that basketball is prime:

  • Second place by people's engagement;
  • Second place by the number of professional leagues;
  • NBA ranks third in revenues after American football and baseball.

Three NBA clubs are in the top 5 of the most expensive teams: New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Golden State Warriors. The number of fans and players is increasing daily, proving that basketball is extremely popular.

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Many people don't even know what cricket is. The main geography of cricket is England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Asia, and the Caribbean Islands. Cricket originated in Asian countries colonized by the UK. Most fans of this sport are from India.

Cricket tournaments are in the top 3 international tournaments in the world after the Football and Rugby World Cups. Cricket is rapidly developing: the profits from TV rights sales are increasing, as is the total number of cricket fans.


The sport is developing in other directions, too. For instance, women's cricket is becoming increasingly popular as the prize funds increase. What's funny is that cricket is for patient and persistent players, as a ball, a basket, and several periods are not enough. Cricket matches can last for 6 hours or 5 days!

Ice hockey is the most popular winter sport. At first, hockey was associated with the Scandinavian countries. Later, thanks to technological development, hockey became popular not only in snowy and cold lands but all over the world, although it is exotic for tropical countries.

Canada, Russia, the USA, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Norway, and Germany are the main hockey countries. Hockey attracts its fans with its dynamics, speed of play, and extreme and fierce fights on the ice. While all basketball players strive to get to the NBA, the landmark of puck and stick fans is also in North America. The NHL is in the top 5 of the largest professional sports leagues in the world.

Alexander Ovechkin
Alexander Ovechkin
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The sport, where only two people compete, has been of interest to the entire globe for decades. Tennis is not so popular only in some African countries, as this is one of the most expensive sports. Four main Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon, and USA Open) raise much money. Over 20 million viewers from the UK alone watch the Wimbledon final every year.

Tennis is unique because the strongest men and top female tennis players have the same income level. Millions of fans follow the most powerful players instead of big clubs: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Iga Świątek. Different years had different heroes who attracted people's attention.

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams
Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams

There is also table tennis, where the table is used instead of the court, and large racquets and the ball are replaced by their short versions. This type of tennis is also popular all over the world and is included in the list of Olympic sports.

This is the only sport on our list where one doesn't need a ball or a puck. An opponent and a ring of clenched fists are enough. The bout announcement, advertising integration, press conference, weigh-in, and the bout itself gather a big audience of men, women, and children who want to see the fight. The sums for one fight, which can last for just several seconds, can shock.

For example, the most expensive bout was between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, and the total profit was $600 million. 16.5 thousand viewers, who spent over $73 million for tickets, watched their bout from the stands. The winner, Mayweather, earned $180 million, and the loser, Pacquiao, got "only" $120 million.


Of course, boxing, MMA, and UFC attract people not only with these media activities. Many factors increase the bouts' popularity: dynamics, brutality, aesthetics of techniques, but, often, everything starts small — with the desire to stand up for oneself.

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Who would think that volleyball would be ahead of other sports? But don't forget that volleyball is one of the simplest sports; in some ways, it is even more global than football. There are 222 volleyball federations, while FIFA consists of only 211 football federations! 


Even so, the commercial component and the audience's demand for volleyball is lower than in other team sports, but this is only due to low media activity. Only various international tournaments, such as the Olympics and the World Cup, are popular. However, volleyball is still at the top in such sports countries as Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, China, Japan, and Poland.

In some countries, baseball is known only from Hollywood movies and TV series. But the traditional American game, which is a part of the US national identity, has spread to many countries around the world. One can encounter baseball fields and professional leagues in Japan, South Korea, China, Mexico, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. The most amazing example of baseball's imported popularity is Japan. The game became widespread after World War II when American military bases appeared on these territories where the soldiers cultivated baseball, basketball, and volleyball, traditionally popular in their home country. The most famous contemporary Japanese writer Haruki Murakami admitted that the desire to write books came to him when he was watching a baseball game from the stands.


Every baseball player's dream is the American MLB (Major League Baseball). 30 clubs of the tournament are divided into two leagues: the National League and the American League. They consist of three parts: East, Central, and West. Matches are held 7 months a year, from April to November, and each team plays more than 150 matches. The MLB calendar is one of the most complicated calendars of sports organizations. After the main events, American and National League winners hold the final title draw, called the World Series, where the best MLB team is determined.

One of the most expensive sports clubs in the world, the New York Yankees became an important brand of American culture due to its phenomenal results in the World Series: the team took part in 40 finals and won 27 of them.

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In some countries, this brutal, cruel, and unusual sport is one of the main sports. New Zealand, Australia, France, South Africa, and the game's home country, the UK, are its biggest fans. What's interesting is that before 1995, rugby wasn't professional, as most clubs preferred to remain amateur because of some payment restrictions. Rugby leagues are not so popular in other countries, and their broadcasts are almost not sold abroad. This affects the salaries of rugby players, even in the world's best leagues. Their athletes earn no more than $100K. Nevertheless, there is still a huge number of fans of the game all over the world.

Rugby and American football

Things are much better with American football. The NFL sells match broadcasts all over the world, and in the USA, the championship is considered the most popular. The commercial component of the league also proves this. For example, Dak Prescott is among the top 5 highest-paid athletes in the world. But despite plenty of media activities, American football is not so widespread. It is most popular in Canada, Mexico, Japan, and some European countries, although it is difficult to follow the matches in the Old World because of time zone differences.

Golf is similar to tennis, as it is also for wealthy people. What is different is the average age. The physical component does not play any role because people of different ages and sexes compete in this sport.


Much credit for golf's popularity goes to the game legend Tiger Woods. Professional golf players win tens of millions of dollars mainly because of him, and Woods himself was one of the top-paid athletes for over 15 years, signing contracts with Gillette, EA Sports, and Nike. The golf audience is hundreds of millions of fans, but due to its high cost, the sport has spread only in the UK, the USA, Australia, Japan, and Korea.

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