25 Most Popular Sports In The World

Posted by , Updated on May 24, 2024

All around the world, various sports and competitions take place. Some of these activities have ancient origins, while others are relatively new. Irrespective of their history, they enjoy immense popularity among both the participants and the spectators, who derive as much enjoyment from watching as those who actively engage in the sport.

For many people, these sports are more than just a hobby—they’re a way of life, and there are plenty of ways you can keep up with sports that interest you or participate in sports yourself. Whether you’re an avid football fan or prefer to watch golf tournaments on TV, there’s probably at least one sport in the world that holds your interest and attention.

Here the 25 most popular sports in the world.



WrestlingSource: http://www.softschools.com/facts/sports/wrestling_facts/796/

Wrestling, and no not the WWE kind, is one of the oldest sports, dating back 15,000 years ago. It’s popular in high school and collegiate settings all over the world.  In 1896, wrestling was named a “foundational sport” in the Olympic games.


Related Article: 25 Major Events In WWE History That Helped Define A Wrestling Juggernaut


Water Polo

water poloSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports-and-everyday-life/sports/sports/water-polo

Water Polo was invented in England and combines elements of many different sports into one. It grew in popularity all over the world and became an Olympic sport in the 1900s.


Table Tennis

table tennisSource: http://mentalfloss.com/article/72560/12-rapid-fire-facts-about-ping-pong

Table Tennis originated in England around 1890 when it was called ping-pong. Table tennis requires quick reflexes, fast hand movements, and an understanding of angles and trajectories to score points. A player’s skill level is determined by how many of the opponent’s shots they can return over the net. Players can also use different spins or shots on their own service for variety and increased effectiveness.



hurlingSource: http://montrealshamrocks.com/about/what-is-hurling/

Started in Ireland over 3,000 years ago, Hurling shares many features with Gaelic Football and is one of the fastest gameplay sports in the world. Hurling is primarily popular in English speaking countries like England, Australia, and New Zealand.



freestyleSource: https://www.factmonster.com/sports/ipka-and-a0771593/skiing

As a winter sport, skiing is typically done on a mountain or slope that has snow, and skiers are equipped with boots and poles to help them move. Skis are used to slide along the snow, which is why they are called snowshoes in some places.

Skiing is an ancient activity of the coldest regions of Europe and North America. It was popular among Scandinavians in the 18th century when it became a winter pastime for royals. Nowadays skiing is one of the most popular sports in those parts of the world because there is usually plenty of snow!



badmintonSource: http://www.softschools.com/facts/sports/badminton_facts/788/

The first badminton club was started in 1877 but the game didn’t take off in popularity until the 1930s. It’s considered the fastest racquetball sport in the world with speeds reaching up to 200 mph (321 kph). Despite its popularity, it didn’t make its debut appearance in the Olympics until 1992.


Field Hockey

field hockeySource: https://hockeyperformanceacademy.com/10-fun-field-hockey-facts/

Field Hockey is a popular sport, especially in Europe. It is played mostly on grass but can be played on artificial turf. The game involves two teams of 11 players each. Players use sticks to hit the ball through the other team’s goalposts at either end of the field.

A player may also use their stick to pass the ball or stop it from going out-of-bounds over the sidelines. There are usually four referees that make sure that the rules are followed and give penalties if needed. The game is said to have originated in England around 1850. Currently, there are over 100 member countries that play this sport competitively. 


Related article: 25 Most Obscure Sports In The World



mmaSource: http://www.mmafacts.com/index.cfm?fa=main.history

Mixed Martial Arts has roots all over the world in Taekwondo, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Kickboxing, and other styles of martial arts but was brought to the United States in 1993 to find the ultimate fighting champion. Many of the styles are Olympic sports.



bowlingSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports-and-everyday-life/sports/sports/bowling

Originally derived from a sport in ancient Egypt, bowling was popular in Germany before it arrived in the United States and became a major sensation.



handballSource: http://sportycious.com/handball-facts-91343/

The first international handball game was between Germany and Belgium in 1925 and is considered the second largest sport in Europe behind football.


Track and Field

raceSource: http://www.livestrong.com/article/120462-running-track-field/

Of course, like many sports, Track and Field finds its origins back to the Olympic games. It now is a very popular sport worldwide with people all over the world competing against each other especially at the Olympics.

For track and field athletes, it is a blessing to come out on top and win places and medals. Nowadays, track and field races have become so popular that to show their support for the sport, many organizers customize unique race medals based on the purpose of the competition, location, and other specifics. These custom race medals are a badge of honor!



lacrosseSource: http://brooklineyouthlacrosse.org/Page.asp?n=17368

Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in North America and is played worldwide in Europe, Australia, and other countries.





robbie mcewanSource: http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/487354/Top-10-facts-about-cycling

Since its inception, the bicycle has grown in popularity with its continued re-invention. The first Tour de France was in 1903 and today around half the world’s population watches it on television which is about 188 countries.


American Football

saint olafSource: http://www.softschools.com/facts/sports/football_facts/577/

American Football is mostly a phenomenon in the United States. But it derives from elements of English sports like rugby and soccer. Despite being only popular in one country, the Super Bowl is watched by millions of people every year.


Formula 1

formula 1Source: http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports-and-everyday-life/sports/sports/formula-one

Formula 1 racers can reach speeds up to 230 mph (370 kph) so it’s unlikely they can point back to ancient Greece as the starting point to their sport. Either way, starting with the first Grand Prix in 1906, Formula 1 racing grew in popularity over time and has become an international sport.



baseballSource: https://www.infoplease.com/people/baseball-players/baseball-fun-facts

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of nine players each. The goal is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching bases in sequence, starting at home plate.

Players on the batting team take turns hitting until three members are out, then the teams switch sides and the other team gets to bat. A player on the fielding team who catches the ball on one bounce can force out a runner by tagging him with the ball while he is not touching base or before he leaves the field of play.


Related Article: 25 Crazy Origin Stories Of Famous Sports That Are Strange But True



boxingSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports-and-everyday-life/sports/sports/boxing

Originally, boxing involved no rules and bare knuckles fighting where someone was likely going to die but as time progressed, more rules and protections were put in place. Still, boxing remains a violent sport that has been banned in some countries. Despite that, it still draws large audiences.


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rugbySource: http://www.softschools.com/facts/sports/rugby_facts/580/

Rugby is one of the most popular sports in the world. It is a contact sport that is played with an oval ball and two teams of fifteen players on a grass or turf field. There are various rugby competitions, but the premier international competition is Rugby World Cup which includes 20 teams. The governing body for rugby is World Rugby. 



volleyballSource: http://www.volleywood.net/volleyball-features/music-style/10-fun-facts-about-volleyball/

Volleyball is a team sport in which two teams of six players are separated by a net. Players use their hands to hit the ball over the net and to keep it in play. At the professional level, both men’s and women’s games are played best-of-five sets. 

Volleyball was invented in 1895 by William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, who wanted an indoor game that combined elements of soccer, basketball, and baseball. The first volleyball world championships weren’t held until 1949 and then it was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1964. 


Ice Hockey

ice hockeySource: http://www.softschools.com/facts/sports/hockey_facts/569/

Original hockey may have derived thousands of years ago but modern ice hockey started in Canada. The first indoor hockey game was played in Montreal in 1875. By the 1900s, the game had grown extremely popular and is now an international sensation.



tennisSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/asia-and-africa/egyptian-history/tennis

Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world, with over 87 million people playing around the globe. Tennis has been played for centuries, with its origins dating back to the 12th – 13th century in France and England, where it was played on grass courts.

Since then, it has evolved into a global sport with 4 major tournaments held all over the world. One of the most famous tennis players in history is Roger Federer, who has spent a combined 310 weeks at the number one spot, the longest streak in history.



golfSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports-and-everyday-life/sports/sports/golf

Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world. It has been around for centuries, but it really took off in popularity with the invention of golf clubs and balls made of metal. Golf is a type of sport where players use clubs to hit a ball into a series of holes on a course.

Players typically walk the course instead of riding on golf carts because walking gives them more time to think about their shots and enjoy nature. Players are always trying to beat each other’s scores, and there are many tournaments all over the world.


Related Article: 25 Highest Paid E-Sports Gamers



cricketSource: https://www.quora.com/How-popular-is-Cricket-in-the-world

Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the center of which is a rectangular 22-yard-long pitch. One team will bat, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the runs scored by the batting team.

There are also different versions of this sport. For example, there is Twenty20 cricket where each side has a single innings consisting only of 20 overs. Another version of cricket includes Test cricket which has matches lasting up to five days.


Related Article: 25 Coolest Olympic Sports Considered But Not Approved



Basket BallSource: http://www.livestrong.com/article/364098-why-is-the-game-of-basketball-so-popular/

Basketball is played all over the world, but it is most popular in the United States. It was invented by James Naismith in 1891. He wanted to create a game that would be less rough than soccer and rugby so he came up with 13 rules for his new game. There are five players on each team.

The player who has possession of the ball is called a shooter and tries to shoot it into a hoop (a metal ring hanging from a post at either end of the court) to score points. The person defending the shooter can use their hands to try to block shots or they can jump or stand in front of the basket when they think that the shooter will shoot there.



most popular sportsSource: http://www.businessinsider.com/soccer-popularity-english-football-mls-2014-7

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport with more than 275 million active players. It evolved from ancient games such as Cuju, which was developed by the Chinese around 206 BC and spread to Europe during the Middle Ages. FIFA, football’s governing body, was founded in 1904 and its headquarters are located in Zurich.

With the World Cup uniting hundreds of countries to compete against each other, the sport continues to grow in popularity, especially in the United States. Along with the Olympics, it is one of the most popular sports in America. Professional leagues exist for every continent except Antarctica.


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Photo: 25. Simon Q, Olympic Freestyle Wrestling (66 kg – Gold Medal Match 1), CC BY 2.0, 24. Flying Cloud from Australia, Womens waterpolo world championship 2007, CC BY 2.0, 23. Wilson Dias/ABr, Table tennis Rio 2007, CC BY 3.0 BR, 22. Jeff Meade from Philadelphia, US, Hurling game Philadelphia USA 2007, CC BY 2.0, 21. 极博双板滑雪俱乐部, Freestyle skiing jump2, CC BY-SA 2.0, 20. Wilson Dias/ABr, Badminton Semifinal Pan 2007, CC BY 3.0 BR, 19. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 18. Pixabay.com (Public Domain),

17. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 16. Steindy, FRA vs HUN (02) – 2010 European Men’s Handball Championship, CC BY-SA 3.0, 15. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 14. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 13. anonymous, Robbie McEwen 2007 Bay Cycling Classic 3, CC BY-SA 2.5, 12. Caleb Williams for D3sports.com, 090926-Saint-Olaf-vs-Augsburg-American-Football, CC BY-SA 3.0, 11. Morio, 2010 Malaysian GP opening lap, CC BY-SA 3.0, 10. SecondPrint Productions on Flickr, David-ortiz-batters-box, CC BY 2.0, 9. SUNIL GROVER, Boxing jaa, CC BY-SA 4.0, 

8. Sophia Rugby / Didier Honoré, Tag.Rugby.Play.01, CC BY-SA 3.0, 7. cdephotos, Volleyball at the 2012 Summer Olympics (7913876824), CC BY 2.0, 6. Ivanmakarov at English Wikipedia, Mike Brown (ice hockey), CC BY 3.0, 5. Madchester, London 2012 Federer-Isner Quarterfinal Warm Up, CC BY-SA 3.0, 4. LeeValleyRegionalPark, Lee Valley Golf Course, CC BY-SA 3.0, 3. Rae Allen from Brisbane, Australia, Muralitharan bowling to Adam Gilchrist, CC BY 2.0, 2.Tim Wang, Basket_Ball, (CC BY-SA 2.0), 1. Neier, Shunsuke1 20080622, CC BY-SA 3.0

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