Photo credit: GagliardiPhotography / Shutterstock
College basketball takes center stage on the sports calendar each March as the NCAA Basketball Tournament kicks off. The tournament brings three action-packed weeks of high-pressure games as 68 teams battle it out for the college basketball crown. Along the way, millions of Americans fill brackets, join desktop pools, and log into games as March Madness unfolds.
For most of the rest of the year, professional sports are more popular among American sports fans. According to a Gallup poll, professional football is America’s sport most popular sport, with 62% of Americans identifying as fans, and professional baseball following closely at 57%. And the two least popular major professional sports, basketball and hockey, have each seen a significant rise in popularity over the past two decades. Meanwhile, college football and college basketball lag slightly behind their professional counterparts in popularity.
A caveat to these data is that sports fandom in the United States can be highly regionalized, with varying interest in different professional sports or college athletics depending on location. The four major sports leagues – Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and National Football League – together contain 124 franchises across the United States and Canada. But these professional franchises are concentrated in a relatively small number of locations. Most markets where professional franchises locate have large populations, strong television markets, and residents with disposable income to support ticket and merchandise sales. And many markets have proven to be well suited for some sports but not others, such as football in Jacksonville or basketball in Portland.
As a result, almost half of all professional sports franchises are based in just seven US states – and in particular, the seven with the most residents. California and New York City not only have multiple metropolitan areas capable of supporting professional sports franchises, but in the case of Los Angeles, the Bay Area and New York City, they also have metropolitan areas large enough to support professional sports franchises. support multiple franchises in the same sport. . Among smaller states with professional sports, it is more common to have fewer sports or teams represented. Four states have only two pro teams and another four have only one.