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This post was last updated on March 1st, 2020 at 12:17 am
One of the coolest things about travelling is that you can get a real feel for a country when you start talking about sports. It gives you more of a sense of the culture and the passion that it can incite.
While particular teams have a long and deep-seated rivalry, the love of a sport can bring people together pretty quickly. And there are some massive sporting finals that make it feel like the world has almost stopped – eager to watch. The FIFA World Cup Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA playoffs and the SuperBowl. They bring people all over the world to one point in time, to enjoy a game – together.
The U.S. has some of the most exciting sports, and some of the richest sports heritage too. Horse Racing, Major Soccer League, NHL and even Wrestling. So in no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the most popular sports in America. And who knows, maybe on your next trip you can get some tickets and experience it for yourself!
A game of golf might feature in just about every single American movie where there are businessmen closing a deal. That is because, for years, it has been one of the most lovely ways to unwind. It is a competitive sport, and if anyone says ‘Tiger Woods’ to you, you know in a second he is a golfer – because his name has become synonymous with the sport.
It is popular in other parts of the world too, but it holds a special place in the hearts of millions of U.S. residents. In the last ten or more years, it has become more competitive, and the intensity has grown too.
While you could watch the golf from the comfort of a living room, you should book a few rounds at a club to get the full experience.
There are golfers everywhere who may never get a chance to play a links course in Scotland, a tree-lined course in America or the sand belts of Australia. Hopefully, I can bring some of those elements into their backyards – Tiger Woods
A super competitive and skilled game. Ice Hockey in the U.S. is played at Apex level at the NHL (national hockey league) and has some fantastic opportunities for young people. Ice Hockey has managed to pull in millions of viewers and is growing each year. In fact, 5.33 million people tuned in to watch the NHL Stanley Cup games in the U.S. To get more into hockey you’re going to have to do some research, things like who are the teams most likely to make the NHL, and who are the young hockey superstars to watch out for.
It is thrilling to watch once you understand the rules, as long as you aren’t put off by the amount of contact that happens.
This one probably goes without saying. Almost all Americans have a basketball team that they support – or their family does. Basketball has been played in the U.S. for more than a century in some form. And some might say that this sport gives some of the personality to the U.S. The game has a huge following and is something that many young people in school will be aiming to play.
High School basketball players have a reasonable chance to get a college scholarship – as long as they are top quality. And after the College can feed through to the NBA. Although some people say that basketball isn’t as popular as it once was, the NBA finals pulled in a massive 15.14 million viewers in 2019.
Most basketball teams have their affiliated city in the name, and there are currently 30 teams in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings were founded in 1923, which makes them the oldest NBA team- cool fact.
You might not think it, but it is reported that motorsports are the second most-watched sport on the American Continent. Many budding young talents have pushed the motorsports arena into the mainstream. You might think that it would be Formula 1 and MotoGP that would take the spotlight.
But actually, it is the homegrown racing that people are enjoying. NASCAR is one of the oldest sports in America and was founded in 1948. It has changed over time like any sport does to fit with viewer demands – can be invigorating to watch though!
Boxing has been included in the Olympic Games since 1904, cementing its place in American sports heritage. We have likely all seen that boxing meme, of the moustached man with bare knuckles in a fight pose. But what you probably don’t know is that he lasted 75 rounds before he won. So boxing isn’t for the faint of heart.
But the bigger PPV matches have to have a lot of buzz and some big names in the match for it to pull views. In 2017 Mayweather V Pacquiao pulled in an impressive 4,600,000. UFC is gaining in popularity too, but the next few years might see boxing fade a bit further into the background.
Tennis is loved the world over and is more popular each year. With some of the biggest tennis superstars residing in the U.S., it is no wonder that is loved by many. At an international level, the sport is dominated by the American sisters Venus and Serena. They took tennis into the homes of millions.
However before the Williams sisters appeared on screen (and everywhere else in the media) You’d likely hear about Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. There are various tennis tournaments, and the U.S. open sees an increase in viewership consistently.
There is no denying how popular Soccer (or football) is in Europe. In fact, it might just be in the top spot for sports played and watched. However, that popularity doesn’t translate to the U.S. It comes just fourth in the list of popular sports. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t wholly star-studded and rising rapidly. Major League Soccer has seen a considerable influx of some of Europe’s finest players.
And most people will remember the tremendous amount of publicity the game got when David Beckham clinched a $250 million contract with L.A. Galaxy. Wayne Rooney had a stint at D.C. United and Zlatan Ibrahimović who also had a short time with L.A. Galaxy. And one of the coolest things is that in 2019 the women’s World Cup Final, which was won by the USA team, was viewed by 14.3 million viewers – only in the U.S. A sure sign that a sport is on the rise.
“Baseball and American football and hockey are all ahead because they have a history. The MLS is kind of new. So hopefully, in time, and with players coming and trying to develop the game, and the U.S. team also doing well – at the last World Cup, they finished above England and created some buzz”. Thierry Henry
If you are talking about American sports, and leave this one out. Created in 1869, American Football has secured itself as one of the most popular sports in the world, and certainly in America. The National Football League, or NFL, has reported increased viewers in recent years.
The draft alone pulled in 6.1 million viewers in 2019. The Super Bowl is a massive global event, and over 1.3 billion chicken wings are eaten on Super Bowl Sunday and 4 million pounds of pretzels! The first Super Bowl was played in 1967 and was a result of the two leagues, AFL and NFL, creating one championship game.
Again almost all movies and series that are American based will feature baseball at some point. It is so ingrained into society that it can happen in the backyard or on the field. Major League Baseball is fun to watch but more fun to play in, which is why you will find Little League Baseball all over the country for school-aged children to play.
Like the NFL there are 30 teams in the MLB – 29 in America and 1 in Canada. And the teams play a whopping 162 games a season. 5 teams will advance forward in each league and then be whittled down to a champion. And MLB has the highest attendance of any sports league in the world with a huge 69.6 million spectators reported in 2018.
“Next to religion, baseball has had a greater impact on our American way of life than any other American institution” – Herbert Hoover.
They might not come as a surprise, but you might not appreciate how sports have moulded the people and the country. Which is why when you head to America for a vacation, as well as the museums, the food and the fantastic scenery you should make every effort to head to any game that is on in the vicinity. The roar of the crowd and the passion of the players is like nothing else.
But if none of those make your heart race with anticipation, go for a good old game of bowling. From the 50s to the 80s it was huge in America!
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