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The World's Most Popular Sport is Soccer / Football

Questions about what is the world's most popular sports are often asked and possibly has never been definitively determined. A quick search online found many references to the top sports in the world, and soccer / association football is nearly always on top no matter what the criteria for the list.

a large crowd attends a football matcha large crowd attends a football match

What Does Popular Mean?

The problem with listing the world's most popular sports is coming up with a clear definition for popular. By popular, do you mean most watched, the most played, or the most talked about! Just some of the factors which could help determine the lists of popular sports include the number of spectators, the number of registered participants, the number of national associations, the number of people that play the game, stadiums and facilities worldwide, tournaments held all over, and merchandise sold. Many of these should be factors in a list of the world's top sports, though it would be difficult to combine them into a single list (hence the many popular sport lists).

Soccer is King

Most of the lists we have seen, whether based on most fans or most participants or whatever the definition of popular, World Football / Soccer is top of the list. Depending on what criteria you use for popularity, the next sports in the list may include basketball, cricket, volleyball, baseball and other versions of football (American, rugby).

Most Watched (Most Fans) Sports

Watching sport can include watching live, on TV and even online. Most information points to the most watched sport as football (soccer), though using online audiences can be biased with regional differences in support for certain sports (e.g. US sports such as basketball, baseball and American football). Another sport that is viewed in high numbers around the world is cricket, despite not being played in many parts of the world. See more about the most watched sports.

Most Played Sports

When discussing popular sports around the world, the sports most played is often considered, not just what people like to watch (there is a difference). Soccer is played in the streets by millions of kids worldwide, though they are not always counted on the most played sports lists as they do not participate in organized games and are not easily counted. Using official figures, sports such as Volleyball and Table Tennis have very high participation rates. See more about the most played sports.

Other Sports Popularity Lists

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Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

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