stat counter Ranking the top 10 most popular sports in the world

Ranking the top 10 most popular sports in the world

Today we’re going to be talking about the top 10 most popular sports in the world. And I know you’ve probably read a similar thing somewhere on the internet before, but you weren’t convinced with their rankings because your favorite sport wasn’t ranked where you expected them.

Well, you might just be right.

Ranking the top 10 most popular sports in the world

Most sports rankings, these days, are compiled based on the perception around some specific sports in those regions of the world. For instance, if a Brazilian was to create a ranking of the most popular sport in the world, he might rank soccer as #1. Not because soccer is automatically the most popular sport in the world, but due to the popularity of the sport in his country, it would be hard to see past soccer. The same thing can be said about a ranking coming from the US or the UK, where sports like American Football and Football respectively, are the most popular sports.

The rankings in this post, however, have been compiled not based on sentiments or favoritism but based on some well-defined criteria, which include:

  • Global fan base and audience
  • TV views
  • TV right deals
  • Internet popularity via search engines
  • Social media presence
  • Number of professional leagues in the world
  • Endorsement and sponsorship deals
  • Average wage of athletes in the sports
  • Number of countries in which the sport is played
  • Biggest global competition
  • Gender equality
  • Annual relevancy
  • Public accessibility
  • Number of amateur players in the world
  • Popularity in prints and global electronic media. That is journals, newspapers, prints, etc.

After careful evaluation of all the criteria listed above, here’s a table showing our rankings of the top 10 most popular sports in the world.

Top 10 most popular sports in the world


Sport and it’s rank

Estimated Fans

Regional Popularity

10 Golf 390,000 Europe, Asia, America, Canada
9 America Football; Rugby 410,000; 410,000 Majorly US; France, New Zealand, South Africa, England
8 Baseball 500,000 US, Japan, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic
7 Table Tennis 850,000 Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas
6 Volleyball 900 Million Asia, Europe, the Americas, Australia
5 Tennis 1 Billion Europe, the Americas, Asia
4 Field Hockey 2 Billion Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia
3 Basketball 2.2 Billion US, Canada, China, and the Philippines
2 Cricket 2.5 Billion Asia, Australia, and the UK
1 Soccer/ Association Football 3.5 Billion Europe, Africa, Asia, America

From the above rankings, it’s clearly evident that football is the most-watched sport in the world. But how did the sport gain such popularity? How did soccer win over the hearts of so many sports fans?

Find the answers to that in this post by clicking here. There you’ll find the reasons why a greater percentage of the sporting community loves soccer the most.

But after doing that, do well to continue with this post!

Below is a highlight of how football fares against the criteria we’ve stated above.

Ranking the top 10 most popular sports in the world2


Global fanbase and audience

Football is watched across the globe in almost every country. A fact that is made evident in the sport’s estimated 3.5 billion fans.

TV Views

You only need to tune in to any TV station whenever the FIFA World Cup is on to understand how the world embraces this sport. Every household in almost every country of the world tunes in to watch the world cup. According to a statement by FIFA after the 2018 world cup, it was revealed that the final match between France and Croatia drew in an estimated television audience of 516.6 million across the globe. It went further to say that more than 3.5 billion people viewed some of the 2018 World Cup matches, with 1.12 billion watching at least one minute of the final. In a world with a population of almost 8 billion people, figures such as those recorded by FIFA are further proof of football’s supremacy.

TV right deals

In terms of TV rights deals, FIFA claimed that it has even secured more than $1 Billion for the 2022 World Cup.

Social Media Presence

On social media, its athletes are the most followed. Talk of superstar names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, and several others. As of 20th March 2020, Christiano Ronaldo, a football superstar, is the most followed athlete on social media with 399.6 million followers across different social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Neymar Jr., another football superstar, follows behind with 236 million followers. And the third on the list of the most followed athletes in 2020 is another football player, Lionel Messi, with 230.1 million followers.

Number of professional leagues in the world

In terms of professional leagues and bodies, football dusts every other sport that is there. To put this into perspective, almost every country in every continent has a national football body and under that body, is at least one professional league body. There’s the English Football FA in England and under this body are league bodies such as the Premier League, the Championship, and several other lower leagues.

Endorsement and sponsorship deals and Average wages of athletes

In terms of average salaries and endorsements, football players are amongst the list of the most paid athletes in the world. According to Forbes, Lionel Messi is the highest-earning athlete alive pocketing a whopping sum of $127 million in sponsorships, endorsements, and wages yearly. Next is Ronaldo with $109 million, Neymar with $105 million, Boxer Canelo Alvarez with $94 million, and Tennis star Roger Federer completes the top-five list with $93.4 million.

Ranking the top 10 most popular sports in the world 3

Number of countries in which the sport is played

Football is played in almost every country in the world. As long as there is a spherical leather material to kick, football will be played.

Biggest global competition

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest football competition. And with the over 3.5 billion viewers recorded at the 2018 World Cup, it is hard to see any other major sporting event beating such figures anytime soon.

Gender equality

Although female football is not on the same level as its male counterparts, the recognition and viewership it receives still outmatch those of other sports.

Annual relevancy

Thanks to the presence of major club football competitions such as the domestic leagues and the continental competitions like the UEFA Champions League, there is never a dull moment with football. Unlike in other sports like Tennis, where games are played seasonally (quarterly, monthly, yearly, etc.), football operates daily. From Monday to Sunday, there is always something to watch.

Public accessibility

One of the biggest reasons why football is such a popular sport is because of its public accessibility. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, sick or strong, man or woman, as long as you can erect two goalposts and have access to any kick-able material, you’re good to have a football game with and against your friends.

In conclusion, don’t forget to check out the post I mentioned earlier about the reasons why football is such a popular sport. It will help you understand how the sport has managed to win over the hearts of everyone.

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