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Generally speaking, sports are the most popular hobbies around the world. Meeting people who don’t watch or fancy at least one sport in their lifetime is rare. However, it’s pretty difficult to determine which sports are the most popular, even if you might think you know which sport is the most popular in the world.
Data experts have used different metrics to determine the top sport over the years. The most prevalent ways to gauge a sport’s popularity have been social media following and engagements, TV viewership, on-ground attendance, and annual revenue.
More sports lovers are popping into the scene every day, and the internet has played a key role in fueling love and passion for sports, especially in the 21st century. Fans can watch their favorite games on subscription-based platforms, catch-free highlight reels on YouTube, and get the latest sports betting odds online at the tap of a button.
Sports’ popularity and general acceptance have brought people together despite race, gender, age, or social status. People of diverse societal groups gather to support and watch their favorite teams/athletes compete in the field of play.
This article discusses some of the most popular sports in the world based on their overall following:
Soccer, or football outside the US, is the most popular sport in the world by a considerably large margin. According to FIFA, the sport’s top governing body, 3.5 billion people tuned in to watch the last World Cup, held once every four years. That’s about half of the world’s population.
The 1950 World Cup finals match between Brazil and Uruguay holds the record for the largest on-ground sporting audience for an event held in an enclosed stadium, with 199,854 persons said to have attended the game.
The top two most followed sports teams on social media are soccer teams (Real Madrid and Barcelona). Nine of the top ten most followed sports teams on Instagram are soccer teams. Also, the top two most followed sports athletes are soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Soccer may not be the most popular sport in the US, but it has a large following in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. North America is the only continent that doesn’t have football as its most popular sport.
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Cricket is most popular in South Asia and has a large following in England and Australia. The game is quite similar to baseball.
Cricket is gaining much ground on the global stage. It was recently reported that the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final match between India and Pakistan broke global viewership records and stands as the most-viewed cricket game in TV history.
Basketball, or netball in some countries, has grown in global reach. Unlike soccer and cricket, basketball isn’t an ancient sport. It dates back to the late 19th century in Springfield, Massachusetts. The NBA, which is basketball’s most popular league, is 75 years old.
The US, Canada, Japan, China, Australia, and some European countries like Spain, Greece, and France make up the majority of its following. It’s said that basketball is becoming the most followed sport in the United States, overtaking football and baseball.
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Hockey’s popularity may not be as enormous as soccer or basketball, but it also has a large following. There are two types of hockey games; ice hockey and field hockey. Ice hockey is popular in North America, while field hockey has a large following in India and Pakistan.
Hockey doesn’t have a very large social media following. However, it has a dedicated on-demand audience. According to reports, 3.2 million people tuned in to watch the final match of the Stanley Cup in 2021 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens.
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Tennis is the most popular individual sport in the whole world. It was reported that the number of Tennis participants increased by 22% in 2020 in the US with 21.6 million participants, according to the Physical Activity Council’s Participation (PAC). Also, more than 60 million people are said to play tennis worldwide, according to Topend Sports.
It also enjoys a large TV viewership. According to the World Tennis Association (WTA), more than 973 million people watched WTA events in 2019, compared to 395 million in 2015.
Tennis can be played as an individual or tag team sport, and both forms are widely accepted worldwide.
Baseball might be a regional sport, but it has a huge fanbase. It was once the most followed sport in the United States but is now second to football. Despite the decline, baseball is still widely regarded as a top sport in the US, thanks to its cultural root.
It’s also popular in Japan and reported to be the most-watched sport on Japanese television.