Sports is a kind of activity that takes a part of our life naturally from the very beginning. But the real fact is that out of many indoor or outdoor games, we always have a likelihood towards a certain sport. So this belongingness grows from our childhood which heavily counts for the most popular sports in the world. There are many indices to gauge this popularity, like television viewership, highest-paid sportspersons, most coverings in the sports news, and last but most important, the most-watched sports in the Olympics.
The ranking of the 10 most popular sports in the world has been tabulated with the help of different metrics like Google Trends, Keyword Research Tools, and Wikipedia’s Sports page view analysis. To conclude the final top 10, an estimated data of the number of followers over the five years has been considered.
Most Popular Sports in the World: At a Glance
|Brazil, Argentina, England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Mexico
|India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Australia, England
|USA, Canada, Iraq, Australia, Philippines
|India, Pakistan, Germany, Australia, Netherlands, England
|USA, UK, Australia, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy
|Ireland, Canada, USA, UK, Scotland, New Zealand
|China, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, India, Denmark
|USA, Canada, Japan
|Brazil, Cuba, Bulgaria, Italy, Serbia
|China, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Germany, Sweden
Most Watched Sports in the World: Comparative Chart
1. Football (Followers- 4 Billion)
Football, the king of all sports, tops the list as being the most popular sport in the World. The reason behind the wide adaptability of football is the inexpensive nature of this outdoor game. The fundamental technique of this physically challenging game is the magic of ball control without the help of hands. Football is played between two teams of 11 players each on a rectangular-shaped ground equally divided by a centerline. The aim is to put the ball into a net behind a goalpost placed at each end of the playing field. FIFA is the regulating authority for all matters concerning football.
The football World Cup is not only the most prestigious but also the biggest sporting event played all over the world in terms of popularity and sponsorship deals. The other two most famous tournaments are the Euro Cup and the Copa America Cup. Popular soccer clubs in Europe like Barcelona, Manchester United, PSG, and Zuventus offer big deals to top players in the world for wearing their club jerseys during premier leagues. If you look for the top 10 Forbes highest-paid athletes in 2021, 4 players from football (Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Tom Brady at no. 2, 3, 6, & 9 ranks respectively) feature in the list, which is the highest number of any kind of sport.
2. Cricket (Followers- 3.5 Billion)
Cricket, the so-called gentleman’s game, has three different formats depending on which match is being played. Test cricket is the oldest form for a 5-day long period, the One-Day format features a 50-over match, and the T-Twenty (20-over) format is the new edition of the game. Cricket is played on a 22-yard pitch within a big circular field. Bowlers take their run up from one end of the stump and throw the cricket ball in a defined fashion to the other end of the stump, where batsmen take their stance. The bowler aims to deceive the batsman of the opponent’s team, whereas the batsman finds ways to collect runs by hitting the ball with the help of a wooden bat.
Cricket stands as the 2nd most popular sport just behind football. The reason for the huge fans of cricket is due to the madness and love of inhabitants of Indian subcontinent countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The new IPL cricket league in India, watched by millions of cricket lovers, has certainly closed the gap between the no. 1 and 2 biggest sports in the world.
3. Basketball (Followers- 2.4 Billion)
Basketball usually played indoors, involves two teams of 5 players each who try to score points (baskets) by throwing a ball inside a horizontal hoop fixed to a backboard at each end of a rectangular field. Though this fast-emerging sport is played all over the world, basketball is more popular in countries like the USA, Canada, Spain, Iraq, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, and the Philippines.
Players participating in the NBA, the most popular basketball league, are among the highest-paid sportspersons around the world.
4. Hockey (Followers- 1.5 Billion)
This outdoor game is played on a rectangular-shaped natural grass or AstroTurf field between two teams of 11 players each (10 players and a goalkeeper). Hockey is played with the help of a stick to send a small, hard ball into the opponent’s goal. In hockey, only the goalkeeper is allowed to touch the ball with any part of the body.
Though hockey is a common game in most parts of the world, the popularity of this game has a higher percentage in India, Pakistan, Australia, and the Netherlands. But due to the lack of sponsorship deals and television coverage, the following of hockey is in a declining trend in recent times.
In Russia, North Europe, the USA, and Canada, the game is specifically known as field hockey to distinguish it from ice hockey.
Instead of a field, ice hockey is played on ice between two teams of 6 players each with the same objective of hitting a puck (a rubber disc) inside the goal box.
5. Tennis (Followers- 1.2 Billion)
Tennis is an individual game (Except doubles pairing as a team) that is not only one of the most-watched sports but also involves lots of prize money and sponsorship deals. The basic principle of this game is to hit a tennis ball (before bouncing twice) with the help of a racket in a fashion so that the ball bounces inside the opponent’s court after crossing over a net.
The main attraction of this sport is the four grand slam events, Wimbledon, French Open, Australian Open, and the US Open where seedings of players are done by ATP and WTA ranking. Roger Federer, the legend of tennis, has a record for featuring among the top 10 in the list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, 12 times in a row from the year 2010 to 2021.
6. Golf (Followers- 1 Billion)
Golf, probably the most expensive sport in the world, is played on a large highly maintained area known as a golf course. The game is played to pocket a small ball into a series of holes (18 or 9 is more common) by striking with various clubs. It requires notable skills and dedication to win the game in the fewest possible strokes.
The Masters, British Open, U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship are the 4 most prestigious golf majors where the winner is awarded massive prize money of $1.44 million! Golf is also famous as a recreational sport among rich people where the game is confined to a series of 9 holes. Ireland, Canada, the USA, the UK, Scotland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and Japan are the few countries where golf is most popular.
7. Badminton (Followers- 950 Million)
In the game of badminton, known as the fastest racket sport, players require agility and fitness to quickly cover a rectangular court. The player (team for doubles) who succeeds in grounding the shuttlecock on the opponent’s court area is declared the winner.
Though badminton is played mainly indoors, outdoor badminton is also enjoyed as a recreational game. The entry of badminton as one of the most popular sports in the world is due to its wide acceptance irrespective of gender in densely populated Asian countries like China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and South Korea.
Related Topic: “16 Amazing Benefits of Playing Badminton“
8. Baseball (Followers- 900 Million)
Baseball, known as the “national pastime” of the United States is a dual fight between a pitcher who throws the ball and a batter who hits the ball. A catcher is positioned behind the batter to catch the ball and also to send signals to the pitcher regarding the suitable position to throw the next ball. The rule of the game is a bit complex, where the winner between the two teams is decided based on total runs of nine innings (an extra inning is played in case the score is tied).
Baseball is played mainly in North America, South America, and East Asia. But the reason for huge fan followers of this sport is due to its popularity in the USA where people love to spend time watching or playing baseball.
9. Volleyball (Followers- 875 Million)
Volleyball is a team sport, played between two teams of 6 players each on a rectangular field separated by a net. The basic objective of this indoor/ outdoor game is to ground the ball on the opponent’s court by volleying over the net. Volleyball has not gained much popularity at the professional level. The hike of volleyball sparkles during the Summer Olympics which is one of the most-watched sports.
Beach volleyball, another variant of volleyball, played on a sand court has shown a high rate of growth in recent years after its introduction in the Summar Olympics in 1996.
10. Table Tennis (Followers- 850 Million)
The game of table tennis also called ping pong in the USA and Canada is played at all levels from schools, offices, and clubs to professional arenas among all age groups, from a 10 years boys/girls to 65 years veterans. And the most interesting fact is that among all the top liked sports, table tennis is the only game that you can play in your home also. Only you need a table tennis table (indoor or outdoor) to exchange rallies by hitting a small, light ball with the help of a paddle.
Table tennis is mostly popular in Asian and European countries. This sport is followed by 850 million in the world, which has made it possible to include table tennis in the list of top 10 popular sports. It is the national game of China, the country with 18.47% of the world’s total population.
It is worthwhile to mention the names of some other spectacular sports like American Football, Motorsport, and Rugby which have a great prospect to feature in the list of top 10 most popular sports in the world in coming years.
Nevertheless, sports not only have a great role in keeping you physically and mentally fresh but also have a great potential to bring the world together by building up social relationships, friendliness, and brotherliness.