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10 Most Popular Sports in the World: Global Rankings and Highlights

Do you know that by 2025, global spending on sports advertising is expected to exceed $76 billion? Even though the topic of the most popular sports in the world is intriguingly controversial, we cannot deny the fact that sports are loved and cherished by people worldwide.

While there are variations in popularity with changing demographics, the passion for sports remains the same. From roaring stadiums to the precision of each play, sports can truly transcend boundaries and bring pulse-pounding energy to the heart of every sports fanatic. Whether it be American Football in the United States or Cricket in India, sports amass a passionate fan base globally. Read further to know more about some of the most popular sports and their evolution to date.

Also Read: 10 Highest Paid Athletes In The World In 2023

List of The Most Watched Sports In The World in 2024.

It is amusing to know that sports has spanned various civilizations. The Olympic Games began in 776 BCE in Olympia and can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. It consisted of sprinting, discus, and boxing. These Greek sports impacted the Romans, and then Gladiator battles became popular spectator attractions.

With the rapid globalization of sports, the sports industry has become a multi-billion-dollar business today. Based on the statistics of supporters and participants, we have curated the list of 10 most popular sports in the world.

PositionSport CategoryFansRegions
1Football3500 MillionEurope, Africa, Asia, America
2Cricket2.5 BillionAsia, Australia, UK
3Hockey2 BillionEurope, Africa, Asia, Australia
4Tennis1 BillionEurope, Asia, America
5Volleyball900 MillionEurope, Australia, Asia, America
6Table Tennis0.85 BillionEurope, Africa, Asia, America
7Basketball800 MillionAmerica, Oceania, Middle East
8Boxing475 MillionAmerica, Mexico
9Rugby500 MillionOceania, South Africa, England
10Horse Racing450 MillionEurope, America, Australia

1. Football/Soccer

Football/Soccer-Most Popular Sports In The World

A whopping 3.5 billion fans worldwide – This exhilarating sport, known as football or soccer, earns the title of most popular sport in the world due to its intense gameplay. 

Brief History

  • Football’s ancient roots can be traced back to several cultures. The Chinese played a game called “cuju” in the second and third century BCE, while the Greeks and Romans had their own forms of ball games.
  • With the foundation of the first football club outside of the British Isles in the Netherlands in 1869, it quickly gained popularity around the world, with clubs and national teams developing in various countries. 

Trivia

Do you know an interesting football fact? The FIFA Football World Cup Final has consistently been one of the most-watched sports events globally, with billions of viewers tuning in.

Countries with the Most Stadiums

The United States holds the top spot for hosting a maximum of 300 football stadiums.

The Global Face of Football

Lionel Messi from Argentina is known as “The Ballon d’Or Winner” due to his multiple awards as the best player in the world.

2. Cricket

Cricket-Most Popular Sports In The World

The second most famous sport is none other than cricket. It has 30 million registered players and an overwhelming 2.5 Billion Fans.

Brief History

  •  The Hambledon Club, founded in the 18th century, is the birthplace of early cricket. As the British Empire expanded, so did this gentleman’s sport. In the 20th century, the rise of Limited-Overs Cricket began to attract larger audiences and commercial interests alike. 
  • From its modest beginnings in rural England to its global presence today, cricket has always united people from diverse cultures and demographics due to their mutual love for this sport. 

Trivia

The Ashes series, which began in 1882 between England and Australia, is one of cricket’s most famous rivalries. The series resulted in the invention of the renowned Ashes urn, which became a contest emblem and is sure to pique your interest if you enjoy cricket facts.

Global Face of Cricket

Sachin Tendulkar, representing India, retired from cricket in 2013 and was later nominated to be a member of the Rajya Sabha in honour of his remarkable sporting legacy.

Biggest Cricket Stadium in the World

The Narendra Modi Stadium, located near Ahmedabad, holds the distinction of being the largest cricket stadium in the world with a seating capacity of 132,000 spectators.

3. Hockey

Hockey-Most Popular Sports In The World

Hockey, the national sport of India, is not far behind and is the third most popular sport in the world, dating back to ancient times. 

Brief History

  • In Scotland, a game called “Shinty” developed, which involved hitting a ball with bent sticks. A comparable game known as “Hurley” was played in Ireland.
  •  Played on grass with a small ball and curved sticks, hockey gained popularity in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • While hockey thrived in Europe, ice hockey emerged in North America. 

Trivia

The term “hat trick” in hockey is thought to have originated in cricket, referring to a player scoring three goals in a single game. A bowler who took three wickets in consecutive deliveries was given a hat in the nineteenth century.

Global Face of Hockey 

Sean Kerly is renowned for leading the British team and achieving the 1988 Seoul Olympics. 

Biggest Hockey Stadium in the World

The Gaddafi Hockey Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, is the world’s largest hockey stadium, with a capacity of 45,000 spectators.

4. Basketball

Basketball-Most Popular Sports In The World

With a staggering 2.2 Billion Fans across the globe, basketball stands tall as one of the most popular sports in the world. Apart from fostering socialization and teamwork, it is also fun to play. 

Brief History

  • Dr. James Naismith first hung a peach basket in a gymnasium in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. The inaugural game comprised participants pitching a football into a goal, and the sport immediately gained popularity.
  • While basketball has deep origins in the United States, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has propelled the sport to the international stage.

Trivia

Let’s share an interesting basketball fact with you, did you know that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, known as “March Madness,” is famous for its unpredictability. In 2018, for the first time in tournament history, a No. 16 seed (UMBC) defeated a No. 1 seed, which is considered the strongest contender (Virginia) in the opening round.

Global Face of Basketball

Michael Jordan, often simply referred to as “MJ,” had an immeasurable impact on the game and global sports culture. His Nike Air Jordan sneakers became a fashion statement, and he was the face of countless endorsements. His influence has spread well beyond the court.

Biggest Basketball Stadium

The United Centre in Chicago, also called The Bulls’ home arena, has a bowl-style structure that gives everyone a good view of the game regardless of where they sit and has a seating of 20,917.

5. Tennis

Tennis-Most Popular Sports In The World

Even after surpassing 1 Billion Fans and standing as one of the most watched sports in the world, Tennis falls short of receiving global appeal, unlike Hockey or Cricket. Being an individual sport, it doesn’t create a strong sense of collective enthusiasm and loyalty. Also, the affordability of Tennis becomes a concern. The access to facilities, Stringing and Maintenance of Tennis rackets, and Club Membership make it a rich people game.

Brief History

  • In the 12th century, a precursor of Tennis known as “jeu de paume” (game of the palm) acquired popularity in France. Players hit a ball back and forth over a net with their bare hands or gloves. 
  • Tennis had grown by the 16th century into a sport known as “real tennis” or “royal tennis.” Tennis was traditionally played indoors on huge courts with varying walls, sloping roofs, and complex rules.

Trivia

Tennis scoring employs the term “love” to denote zero points. According to one hypothesis, the word “love” is derived from the French term “l’oeuf,” which means “egg,” which resembles a zero.

Global Face of Tennis

Roger Federer from Switzerland has an impressive 20 Grand Slam singles Titles record and is the global face of the sport. On the rise in the tennis world, young talents like Carlos Alcaraz are captivating fans with their promising performances and might one day challenge records like Federer’s.

Biggest Stadium in the World

The Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York holds a seating capacity of 23,771 spectators. Of late, a retractable roof has been installed so matches can be played even in adverse weather conditions.

Also Read: 30 Interesting Tennis Facts That Will Astonish You

6. Volleyball

Volleyball-Most Popular Sports In The World

Volleyball, garnering roughly 900 million aficionados, is another popular sport worldwide. It is loved by many due to its simplicity and ease on the players’ musculoskeletal structure.

Brief History

  • In 1985, it was first known as” Mintonette”, and later, the rules changed with the addition of the three-megahit rule( bump, set, shaft).
  • On January 20, 1892, the first formal game was played with 9 players on each team.

Trivia

Sand volleyball has become a crowd-pleaser and Olympic favourite due to its unique dynamics, sandy courts, and distinctive two-player game.

Global Face of Volleyball

Karch Kiraly, also called the” Michael Jordan of Volleyball, ” has been a remarkable indoor and sand volleyball player. After withdrawal, he has been largely successful in his coaching career in the US Women’s indoor and sand volleyball brigades.

Biggest Stadium in the World

The FIVB Volleyball World Crowns are constantly held in different nations, with spots similar to Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanzinho being among the largest for volleyball events.

7. Table Tennis

Table Tennis-Most Popular Sports In The World

Boasting over 1 billion fans worldwide, often called ‘Ping Pong’, it is one of the most watched sports in the world.

Brief History

  • It began as an after-dinner indoor game in England in the 19th century and continued to evolve with standardized rules set by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in 1926. 
  • Table tennis made its Olympic debut at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, marking an important turning point in the sport’s global recognition.

Trivia

Ping pong has even travelled to space! Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have enjoyed playing table tennis in microgravity, modifying the game for weightlessness.

Global Face of Tennis

Ma Long of China, nicknamed “The Dragon,” is widely recognized as one of the best table tennis players of all time. His lightning-quick reflexes and perfect accuracy have won him a huge international following.

The longest rally recorded

It was in 2014 during a match between Daniel Ives and Carl Young in England. The rally lasted an incredible 8 hours and 40 minutes, with almost 8,000 hits in a row.

8. Rugby

Rugby-Most Popular Sports In The World

With an overbearing 400 million fans scattered globally, Rugby has consistently ranked among one of the most popular sports. The toughness of the game and the inclusivity offering its access to various body types contribute to this fanbase.

Brief History

  • This tough sport began when a young William Webb Ellis picked up a football and ran with it during a game of football. This triggered the birth of rugby football, and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • The first international rugby match was played in 1871 between England and Scotland, kicking off an international rugby competition.
  • Since then, Rugby has undergone various evolutions, resulting in two major forms of the game: rugby union and rugby league. While they both have common beginnings, they have their own set of laws and regulatory bodies.

Trivia

Before each match, New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks, perform the legendary Haka, a traditional Maori battle dance.

Global Face of Rugby

Jonah Tali Lomu, a global icon and a sensation of Rugby, is known for his agility. After retirement, he continued to be an advocate for the sport. He had an untimely demise at 40, but his contributions and enduring spirit will always be cherished.

Record Breaking Stadium

FNB Stadium at Johannesburg, whose exterior is designed like an African Pot, offers zero restricted views. In 2010, it hosted a debut rugby union match and witnessed an attendance of 94,713, making it the third-biggest rugby attendance in the Southern Hemisphere.

9. Boxing

Boxing-Most Popular Sports In The World

Boxing, a game confined within the squared circle, has more than 3.5 Million people drawn towards it. Besides being a sport, boxing is also a popular self-defence skill and fitness regimen for people. 

Trivia

The Rumble in the Jungle, the historic 1974 boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, is still considered an iconic event. The sheer drama, strategy, and historical context surrounding the fight make it the greatest game of all time.

Brief History

  • In the 7th century BC, the Greeks accepted boxing as an Olympic sport, instituting rules and restrictions. Fighters would wrap their fists in leather thongs as an early kind of hand protection.
  • Around 3000 BC, in ancient Egypt, Boxing matches were depicted on hieroglyphics found in tombs and temples.
  • With the adoption of the Marquess of Queensberry Rules in 1867, the modern era of boxing began in the mid-nineteenth century. These regulations established the usage of padded gloves, three-minute rounds, and the ten-count rule for knockouts.

Global Face of Boxing

Muhammad Ali was a charismatic icon known for his unorthodox fighting style. Beyond the ring, he established himself as a prominent civil rights and anti-war figure. His opposition to the Vietnam War and campaign for racial equality made him a symbol of social change and resistance.

Iconic Stadium for Boxing in the World

Madison Square Garden, often Cited as “The Mecca of Boxing”, has frequently hosted title fights in various weight classes. The exciting atmosphere of the arena, as well as the informed New York fight fans, make it a sought-after site for title fights.

10. Horse Racing

Horse Racing-Most Popular Sports In The World

Often dubbed “The Sport of Kings,” horse racing has won the hearts of over 2 billion fans worldwide. Prestigious events like the Kentucky Derby, Betting Excitement and the Glamour of Fashion and Hats serve as an allure.

Brief History

  • Horse racing may be traced back to ancient Greece. Knights and aristocracy participated in equestrian contests in medieval Europe, providing the framework for current horse sports.
  • Modern horse racing began in England in the late 17th century, with events such as the St Leger and The Kentucky Derby, commonly known as the “Run for the Roses,” established in 1875.

Trivia

Tyson took his love of combat sports to the realm of horse racing. He introduced the Tyson Ranch in 2019, a unique cannabis resort that features a luxury hotel, an amphitheatre, and, most notably, a world-class equestrian centre. Tyson wants the ranch to be a destination for horse racing and equestrian events.

Global Face of Horse Racing

Frankel, Flat Racing’s Unbeaten Superstar, whose influence goes beyond his racing career. He’s become a sought-after breeding stallion, passing on his remarkable genes to future generations of racehorses.

Iconic Racing Track in the World

Ascot, famed for hosting famous races such as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, was opened in 1711. The week of the Royal Ascot race is regarded as the most important in the British social calendar. 

Summing Up: Top 10 Most Famous Sports In The World

With this, we conclude our list of the 10 most popular sports in the world. Each of these sports has its own charm, appeal and historical significance. They all share a universal language of sportsmanship and exhibit unity in diversity amongst all the fans across the globe. The excitement and disappointment associated with these sports fosters healthy friendships and ignites the spirit of competition as well. So, whether you’re a racing enthusiast or a cricket fan, each sport has its own world, with its heartwarming and pounding moments. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Which Is the Most Popular Sport in the World?

With over 3.5 billion fan base worldwide, Football is the most popular sport in the world.

How Many Soccer Fans Are There Worldwide? 

There are over 3.5 billion soccer fans worldwide, and this number continues to grow as soccer maintains its status as one of the most popular and widely watched sports globally.

What’s The Most-Watched Sport in The World?

Football, also known as soccer, boasts an impressive 3.5 billion followers globally, securing its position as the most-watched sport. Played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players, soccer enjoys widespread popularity worldwide.

What Are The Top 3 Favorite Sports?

Going by the numbers, the top 3 sports globally are Football, Cricket and Hockey. These sports not only capture the hearts of billions but also transcend cultural boundaries, fostering a sense of unity and passion among diverse communities worldwide.

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Monika Ahuja
Monika Ahuja
Monika is a sports fanatic who loves expressing her emotions through her words. She always holds the spirit of the game when writing about them. She has an extensive understanding of different sports formats that prevent her from making any unsubstantiated accusations towards a player or sport. Her understanding, combined with her rigorous research skills, helps her deliver the best sports content.

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