A lot of times, a place’s history are defined by its sport achievements. The whole of France celebrated after they won the soccer World Cup in 1998 and England feted its rugby side when they won the sport’s version of the World Cup in 2003. Boston stopped several times the past decade, especially after the Red Sox finally won a World Series in 2004, but also after the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2001, the Celtics bagged the NBA Finals in 2008 and the Bruins garnered the Stanley Cup in 2011. Even old wounds and troubles are temporarily healed as proven in South Africa after they won the rugby World Cup in 1995 and the African Cup of Nations football tournament the following year.
Sports can be a unifying element watched by all. Here are the top 10 sports with the biggest audience in the world, based on the average number of attendance in a tournament per game.
10. Basketball, NBA – 17,319 per game
The National Basketball Association, or NBA, was established in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America, or BAA. Its players are some of the best-paid athletes in the world. When the best American players were finally sent to the Olympics as part of the Dream Team, even other famous athletes stopped to watch and get autographs. There are 30 teams in the NBA, 29 of which are based in the United States and one in Canada. The most successful teams are the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.
9. Rugby League, NRL – 17,367 per game
The National Rugby League, or NRL, was formed in 1998 as a result of the merger between the Australian Rugby League and the Super League. The Australian Rugby League Competition runs it. There are 16 teams in the league, including 15 from Australia and one from New Zealand. Including its predecessor, the most successful teams are the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters.
8. Ice Hockey, NHL – 17,460 per game
The National Hockey League, or NHL, was established in 1917 in Quebec. It features a total of 30 teams, including 23 from the United States and seven from Canada. Although Canadians used to dominate the lineups in the sport, the league’s expansion from the Original Six to its current 30 teams have allowed for a more diverse lineup, with teams now featuring highly skilled European players. The Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings are the most successful franchises in the sport.
7. Rugby Union, Super Rugby – 21,504 per game
The Super Rugby, also known as the SupeRugby and Super 15, is the largest rugby union tournament in the Southern hemisphere. It features 15 teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It was formerly known as the Super 12 when it was formed in 1996, before it expanded into the Super 14 in 2006, before finally getting rebranded as the SupeRugby in 2011. The most successful teams are New Zealand’s Crusaders and Blues and South Africa’s Bulls.
6. Canadian Football, CFL – 27,785 per game
The Canadian Football League, or CFL, was established in 1958. It features eight teams divided into two divisions of four each. The most successful team in the league has been the Edmonton Eskimos, which has garnered 10 titles.
5. Baseball, MLB – 30,138 per game
Major League Baseball, or MLB, was founded way back in 1869. It is divided into two leagues, the American League and the National League, of 15 teams, which is further subdivided into three divisions each. Because of the sheer number of games at 162 for each team in a regular season, MLB is actually the sport with the highest total attendance in all of sports at more than 73 million per year. The most successful franchises have been the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals.
4. Australian Football, AFL – 38,295 per game
The Australian Football League, or AFL, is the highest-level professional tournament that espouses Aussie Rules of football. It is the most popular sporting tournament down under. There are 18 teams in the league, but while the teams are spread over five states in Australia, more than half are based in Victoria with 10. The most successful teams have been Carlton and Essendon, with 16 titles each.
3. Soccer, Bundesliga – 42,565 per game
The German top-class football league, called the Bundesliga, was established in 1963. It is composed of 18 teams, with the bottom teams being demoted to the Bundesliga second division. The top teams of the second division are then promoted to the following season’s top-flight Bundesliga. It is considered to be the most-attended attended soccer league in the world, with more people watching it live compared to the more prominent English, Spanish and Italian leagues. The most successful side has been Bayern Munich.
2. College Football, NCAA – 46,074 per game
The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision had its first champion back in 1869. It is the only college sport in the United States where the champion is not determined by an actual tournament event. Instead, selectors or organizations declare the champion. The two most widely recognized organizations are the Associated Press, which has sportswriters as its selectors, and the USA Today, which counts coaches as its selectors. The coaches are obliged by contract to name the winner of the Bowl Championship Series game as USA Today’s national champion. Princeton and Yale have the most number of championships, though teams from the southeast have dominated the past years, including Alabama, Auburn and Florida.
1. American Football, NFL – 68,240 per game
The National Football League, or NFL, only has a limited 16-game regular season, but it is the most watched sport in terms of average attendance. It was founded in 1920, although the Super Bowl itself was only institutionalized in 1967. Almost all the major networks cover it. The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears have the most number of titles, though in terms of Super Bowl victories, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers are the most successful.
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