Sports in the United States are an important part of the country’s culture. The four major professional sports leagues in the United States are Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL). All four enjoy wide-ranging domestic media coverage and are considered the preeminent leagues in their respective sports in the world, although only basketball, baseball, and ice hockey have substantial followings in other nations. Three of those leagues have teams that represent Canadian cities, and all four are among the most financially lucrative sports leagues in the World.
Sports are particularly associated with education in the United States, with most high schools and universities having organized sports. College sports competitions play an important role in the American sporting culture, and college football and college basketball are as popular as professional sports in some parts of the country. The major sanctioning body for college sports is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is the National Olympic Committee for the United States. American athletes have won a total of 2,570 medals at the Summer Olympic Games and another 253 at the Winter Olympic Games. American athletes have won more medals in athletics (track and field) (738, 29%) and swimming (489, 19%) than any other nations. Thomas Burke was the first athlete to represent the United States at the Olympics. He took first place in both the 100 meters and the 400 meters at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. American swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, with 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold.
The United States hosted both Summer and Winter Games in 1932, and has hosted more Games than any other country – eight times, four times each for the Summer and Winter Games:
the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, 1932 Summer Olympics and 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles; and the 1996
the 1932 Winter Olympics and 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York; the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California; and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Motor sports are widely popular in the United States but Americans generally show little interest in the major international competitions, such as the Formula One Grand Prix series and MotoGP, preferring home-grown racing series. However, some Americans have achieved great success in these international series, such as Mario Andretti and Kenny Roberts.
Historically, open wheel racing was the most popular nationwide, with the Indianapolis 500 being the most widely followed race. However, an acrimonious split in 1994 between the primary series, CART (later known as Champ Car), and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (the site of the Indy 500) led to the formation of the Indy Racing League, which launched the rival IndyCar Series in 1996. From that point, the popularity of open wheel racing in the U.S. declined dramatically.
The CART-IRL feud coincided with an enormous expansion of stock car racing, governed by NASCAR, from its past as a mostly regional circuit mainly followed in the Southern United States to a truly national sport.
Among the better known sports car races in the United States are the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans, which have featured in the World Sportscar Championship, IMSA GT Championship, Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, FIA World Endurance Championship, American Le Mans Series, Rolex Sports Car Series and currently the United SportsCar Championship..
Several other motorsports enjoy varying degrees of popularity in the United States: short track motor racing, motocross, monster truck competitions (including the popular Monster Jam circuit), demolition derby, figure 8 racing and tractor pulling.
More Americans are heading outdoors to hunt and fish for fun, reversing a two-decade-long decline among adults.
Eleven percent more Americans (ages 16 and older) fished and 9% more hunted in 2011 than in 2006, according to a new five-year survey from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The kids went, too. Of those ages 6 to 15, 13% more hunted (from 1.6 million to a record 1.8 million) and 2% more fished (from 8.3 million to 8.5 million) during the same period.
Tennis is played in the United States in all five categories (Men’s and Ladies’ Singles; Men’s, Ladies’ and Mixed Doubles); however, the most popular are the singles. The pinnacle of the sport in the country is the US Open played in late August at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. The Indian Wells Masters, Miami Masters and Cincinnati Masters are part of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 and the former WTA Tier I (currently Primer Mandatory and Premier 5).
Track and field
There are many track and field events which involve individual athletes competing, including sprints, middle and long-distance events, and hurdling. Regular jumping events include long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault, while the most common throwing events are shot put, javelin, discus and hammer. There are also “combined events”, such as heptathlon and decathlon, in which athletes compete in a number of the above events.
Golf is played in the United States by about 25 million people. The sport’s national governing body, the United States Golf Association (USGA), is jointly responsible with The R&A for setting and administering the rules of golf. The USGA conducts three national championships open to professionals: U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open, and will add a fourth, the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, in 2018. The PGA of America organizes the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship and Women’s PGA Championship.
United States became the center of professional boxing in the early 20th century. The National Boxing Association was founded in 1921 and began to sanction title fights. In the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali became an iconic figure, transformed the role and image of the African American athlete in America by his embrace of racial pride, and transcended the sport by refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. In the 1980s and 1990s, major boxers such as Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe were marked by crime and self-destruction.
American football, known within the U.S. simply as football, has the most participants of any sport at both high school and college levels.
The NFL is the preeminent professional football league in the United States. The NFL has 32 franchises divided into two conferences. After a 16-game regular season, each conference sends six teams to the NFL Playoffs, which eventually culminate in the league’s championship game, the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady against the Washington Redskins on August 28, 2009. Notable NFL players include Jim Kelly, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Dick Butkus, Joe Greene, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Walter Payton, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith, and Ray Lewis. Notable current NFL players include Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, and J. J. Watt.
Fenway Park in Boston is the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball.
Baseball and a variant, softball, are popular participatory sports in the U.S.
Notable American baseball players in history include Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter and Jackie Robinson, who was instrumental in dissolving the color line and allowing African-Americans into the major leagues. The more noted players of today include Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
Of those Americans citing their favorite sport, basketball is ranked second (counting amateur levels) behind American football. However, in regards to money the NBA is ranked third in popularity. More Americans play basketball than any other team sport, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, with over 26 million Americans playing basketball. Basketball was invented in 1891 by Canadian physical education teacher James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the world’s premier men’s professional basketball league and one of the major professional sports leagues of North America. It contains 30 teams (29 teams in the U.S. and 1 in Canada) that play an 82-game season from October to June. After the regular season, eight teams from each conference compete in the playoffs for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
Since the 1992 Summer Olympics, NBA players have represented the United States in international competition and won several important tournaments. The Dream Team was the unofficial nickname of the United States men’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics.
Professional basketball is followed in cities where there are no other sports teams in the four major professional leagues, such as in the case of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Sacramento Kings, the San Antonio Spurs, or the Portland Trail Blazers. New York City has also had a long historical connection with college and professional basketball, and many basketball legends initially developed their reputations playing in the many playgrounds throughout the city. Madison Square Garden, the home arena of the New York Knicks, is often referred to as the “Mecca of basketball.”
Usually referred to simply as “hockey”, is another popular sport in the United States. In the U.S. the game is most popular in regions of the country with a cold winter climate, namely the northeast and the upper Midwest. However, since the 1990s, hockey has become increasingly popular in the Sun Belt due in large part to the expansion of the National Hockey League to the southeast and southwest U.S., coupled with the mass relocation of many residents from northern cities with strong hockey support to these Sun Belt locations.
Soccer has been increasing in popularity in the United States in recent years. Is played by over 13 million people in the U.S., making it the third most played sport in the U.S., more widely played than ice field only one team almost hockey and American football. Most NCAA Division I colleges field both a men’s and women’s varsity soccer team, and those that invariably field a women’s team.
Volleyball is also a notable sport in the United States, especially at the college and university levels.
Rugby, popular in other English-speaking nations, is not as well known in the United States. Is played recreationally and in colleges, though it is not governed by the NCAA (see college rugby). There are more than 457,983 registered and unregistered players, with more than a quarter being women.
Ultimate and disc sports (Frisbee)
Ultimate is a team sport played with a flying disc. The object of the game is to score points by passing the disc to members of your own team, on a rectangular field, 110 yards (110m) by 40 yards (37m), until you have successfully completed a pass to a team member in the opposing teams end zone. There are currently over 5.1 million people that play some form of organized ultimate in the US.
A popular sport in Commonwealth countries, is not that popular in the U.S. but has a niche market. Many amateur U.S. cricket leagues have been formed by immigrants, and as a result, the sport has made limited inroads into America because of an influx of migrants from cricketing countries.