Sports are a central part of American culture. Lots of people follow at least one major sport, and they also have favourite sports teams. In the USA, the most popular sports are football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer. In this piece, we will cover the most popular sports leagues in the country.

Is Sports Betting Legal in the USA?

Before we evaluate the list of popular sports leagues in the USA, we should first find out whether sports betting is legal in the country. A few years ago, the federal government struck down the ban on sports betting, and this meant individual states had to decide whether they would allow their residents to engage in gambling. At the moment, more than two dozen states have legalized sports betting. However, it is worth noting that many states only have in-person betting options, meaning online gambling has not yet caught on. Some of the states where punters can sign up on new casino sites are Illinois, Connecticut, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada. Many states have had issues with tribal gambling houses, but they are likely to legalize online gambling soon.

The Most Popular American Sports Leagues

1. The National Football League (NFL)

The NFL is currently the most popular sports tournament in the country, and it appeals to about 33% of all sports fans in the country. In 2021, the Super Bowl drew 96.4 million viewers, and many of these people streamed the event online. Football took more than a century to become the most popular sport in the USA, and now, the Super Bowl is the most-watched sports event in the country. Still, it has a long way to go in the international community as more people prefer watching basketball and soccer matches.

2. The Major Baseball League (MLB)

Baseball was traditionally considered the national pastime of the USA, but its popularity has declined steadily over the decades. Still, the MLB is the second most popular sports league in the country. Although it doesn’t get as much attention among younger people, the league has been able to hold its appeal to older viewers. This league was founded in 1903 and is famous for being the oldest major professional sports league in the world.

3. The National Basketball Association (NBA)

  • While the NHL is extremely popular in the USA, it has very little appeal internationally. Around the world, more people enjoy watching the NBA than any other American sports league, thanks in part to the NBA League Pass branding efforts aimed at expanding their global fanbase. This is the reason why NBA players are the highest-paid athletes in the world. In the country, the NBA ranks as the third most popular sports league, and its increased popularity is relatively recent. Until the 1980s, the NBA had very low viewership and was suffering from extremely low TV ratings. It started gaining international appeal towards the end of the 1980s, and this was partly because of aggressive marketing and the rise of stars like Magic Johnson.


Sports viewership has increased significantly in the USA. At the moment, the most popular sports leagues in the country are the NFL, the MLB, and the NBA. The National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) also attract lots of viewers.