The Most Popular Sports in the World for Summer 2024, Ranked by Country

Last updated on June 7th, 2024 at 09:53 am

Whether you work locally or abroad, sports can help you stay connected with family and friends. Sports viewership inspires shared feelings of joy, camaraderie, and national pride.

What are the most popular sports worldwide? At Remitly, we explored this question to celebrate global sports diversity and the passions that unite fans in different countries.

An overview of the most popular sports worldwide

All the major sports boast a fan base that cuts across the world’s population. Here’s a rundown of the most-watched sports in the world.

Global popularity ranking Sport Most popular in… Estimated global fan base
1 Association football (Soccer) Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the US 3.5 billion
2 Cricket Asia, Australia, and the UK 2.5 billion
3 Hockey Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia 2 billion
4 Tennis Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the US 1 billion
5 Volleyball Europe, Latin America, Australia, Asia, and the US 900 million
6 Table tennis Europe, Africa, Asia, and the US 850 million
7 Basketball The US, Latin America, Oceania, and the Middle East 800 million
8 Baseball The US, Latin America, and Japan 500 million
9 Rugby Oceania, South Africa, the UK, and Latin America 475 million
10 Golf The US, Oceania, and Europe 400 million

Table 1: The top 10 most popular sports worldwide. (Source, 2023)

When you sort through the rankings regionally, even more differences emerge. For example, American football, windsurfing, and boat racing are popular in the US and Canada, but much less well-known in Latin America and other parts of the world.

Similarly, fans in India, Pakistan, and even Guyana love cricket. Although the sport hasn’t always had a lot of global appeal, its popularity is growing steadily worldwide.

Figure 1: Which sport is more popular? A regional analysis. (Source, 2024)

Most popular sports by country

According to the World Sports Encyclopedia, there are over 8,000 sports and sporting games in the world today. Most have deeply embedded roots in indigenous cultures, but a few—like tugball and Esports—are more recent inventions.

Local culture influences sports preferences. Take a look at the regional variations across North America, Australia, Brazil, China, and India.

Country 5 most popular sports
The US American football, basketball, baseball, boxing, ice hockey
Australia Rugby, Australian rules football, netball, swimming, cricket
Brazil Association football (soccer), volleyball, mixed martial arts (like Capoeira), basketball, auto racing
China Badminton, table tennis, basketball, soccer, and Esports
India Cricket, field hockey, soccer, cycling, and badminton

Table 2: Top 5 most popular sports activities in various regions

The United States of America (US)

American sports have a centuries-long history. From various Native American communities inventing lacrosse to the college teams that popularized basketball in the late 1800s, sports are a big part of the national identity.

Participating in or watching sporting events is a favorite pastime here. The average American spends up to 5.2 hours watching individual sports or professional league games every week. This can also include high school tournaments.

However, the most-watched sports in the US are American football (74.5%), basketball (56.6%), and baseball (50.5%). Hockey, golf, tennis, and circuit auto racing are also high on the list.

Figure 1: The most watched sports in the USA (Source, 2022)

Baseball holds a special place in America’s sporting culture—it’s been the national sport for over 100 years. But after the Civil War, more people started to embrace American football, and it quickly became one of the most significant activities in the country, whether by participation, viewership, or economic contribution.


Canadians are well-known for their love of politeness, maple syrup, and sports, specifically ice hockey and lacrosse.

Evidence shows that lacrosse—or, at least, a version of it—made its way to Canada as early as the 17th century. Indigenous peoples in Canada played the game long before European settlers arrived, and they contributed significantly to its growing popularity.

Similarly, ice hockey evolved from the original British stick-and-ball games to what it is today in Canada. By 2023, the country had over 2,800 indoor and 5,000 outdoor ice hockey rinks.

Today, lacrosse is designated “Canada’s National Summer Sport,” while ice hockey is “Canada’s National Winter Sport.” You can plan your trip to Canada or call family and friends to keep up with the latest games during these two sporting seasons.

Other popular sports in Canada include football, basketball, golf, cricket, and rugby, as well as more uncommon ones like curling.

The United Kingdom (UK)

One thing’s clear from England to Scotland, Wales, and North Ireland: association football is king. Like every other European country, soccer—or the real football, depending on where you’re from—has a massive fan base in the UK.

It’s also home to some of the world’s most significant professional leagues, clubs, and associations. For example, there are 17 English professional teams in London alone.

Soccer fills big stadiums, with over 35 million people paying to attend these games. Viewership numbers are similarly insane—the most-watched soccer matches garner millions of TV and streaming views every season.

However, other sports are popular across the UK, too. The most common choices are cricket, rugby, horse racing, rowing, and netball. Whether you’re a permanent resident or just a seasonal visitor, sports are a great way to make new friends here.


India is synonymous with cricket and has been since the country won the world’s top cricket tournament in 1983. The win inspired a new generation of passionate players who discovered a sport that imparts patience, character, strength, and stamina—qualities held in high regard in Indian society.

Since then, the national team has become one of the most successful in the world. By 2021, the five most-followed cricket teams on social media were all from India:

Team No. of social media followers
Mumbai Indians 25.5 million
Chennai Super Kings 24.6 million
Kolkata Knight Raiders 22.4 million
Royal Challengers Bengaluru 19.1 million
Punjab Kings 12.7 million

Table 3: The most followed cricket clubs on social media. (Source, 2021)

The local fan base also enjoys field hockey, India’s national sport. The country has won eight gold medals in the biggest global sports competition for field hockey.

Association football (soccer), tennis, badminton, wrestling, and circuit auto racing are immensely popular too.


Just like its deserts and spiders, sports are huge in Australia. Undoubtedly, the most popular is Australian rules football, also called Australian football or Aussie rules. It’s a fast-paced contact sport beloved by Aussies because it represents the highest levels of skill, athleticism, and performance.

Rugby is a close second. Australia has a strong rugby culture, specifically around Rugby League. This differs from Rugby Union, which adopts a separate set of rules.

Rugby League Rugby Union
13 players 15 players
Six tackles per possession Unlimited tackles
Four points for a try, and two points for a goal Five points for a try, and two or three points for a goal
Played on a smaller field Played on a larger field
Faster and more structured More emphasis on tactics and possession

Table: The main differences between Rugby League and Rugby Union. (Source, 2024)

Besides these two sports, you’ll also find a loyal fan base for cricket, golf, horse racing, netball, and auto racing here. Games like lawn bowling and tennis also attract considerable interest among locals, expatriates, and international students.


Did you know that China is a global leader in badminton? It speaks deeply to the Chinese philosophy of hard work. Most players start sharpening their skills at a very young age in hopes of gaining massive government benefits.

However, both young and old can enjoy this inclusive sport, making it one of the most popular in the country.

Table tennis is another big draw. The national team has won numerous gold and silver medals in global sports competitions. Basketball’s popularity is rising steadily as the national league continues to excel on the world stage.


Baseball, or Yakyū, is hugely popular in Japan. It’s inspired a wealth of music, art, and clothing. Some players have even joined international professional leagues, where they continue to excel.

But sumo wrestling remains Japan’s national sport, with ties to prehistoric times. This sport is so unique to the country that Japan is the only place where sumo wrestlers practice it professionally.

Soccer (futtobōru or sakkā), tennis, golf, boxing, and basketball also have significant fan bases.


Brazil has cemented its place as a global titan in association football (soccer). In fact, locals call it “o País do Futebol”—literally, the country of football. It’s famously home to some of the world’s greatest soccer players.

Brazil also excels in global sports like volleyball and gymnastics. Mixed martial arts, such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, are quite popular here.


Germany’s stability, security, and vibrant job market make it one of the most popular places to move abroad. The nation’s passion for sports is evident in everything from its world-class soccer stadiums to its many rowing competitions.

Soccer tops the list, but German sports fans love anything that appeals to the competitive spirit, including handball, basketball, tennis, and golf. Winter sports like skiing and ice hockey are another crowd favorite here.


France has a long sporting history, so it’s no surprise that French athletes have won numerous medals in world championships and global sports tournaments.

They’re renowned for performing well in cycling, handball, and soccer. However, rugby and track and field are also well-loved among the population.


Similarly, Italy has deep and abiding interests in soccer. In fact, after winning the sport’s premier cup four times—along with 48 European trophies—its national team is one of the most successful in the world.

Italians are most interested in team sports like basketball, volleyball, rugby, and water polo. But individual sports tournaments in cycling, fencing, shooting, and boxing also enjoy significant viewership.


Spain, like the rest of Europe, is obsessed with soccer. It’s more than just a sport—it’s a large part of the culture. Spain hosts one of the premier professional leagues for the sport. It’s also won the third-most medals in the world’s biggest summer tournament.

But if you aren’t a soccer fan, there are plenty of other popular options: basketball, padel, tennis, cycling, and circuit auto racing. What’s more, many Spanish businesses offer guided tours during bullfighting season, celebrating a sport that’s important to the national identity.


Russian athletes are renowned for their toughness and skill. The most popular sports here are intensely physical, emphasizing strength, strategy, and a strong tactical spirit.

Ice hockey, gymnastics, and soccer are the most watched, but boxing, mixed martial arts, and rugby are also well-loved.

South Africa

South Africa is famed for its diversity and beautiful natural landscapes. There’s a lot of space to play, so intensive sports like rugby, cricket, and soccer are quite prominent here.

With the end of apartheid, South Africa started participating actively in global sports and quickly rose through the ranks. The country’s national rugby team has won several world cups and consistently ranks high in international standings.


In cricket, Pakistan is a global powerhouse. Love for the game transcends all ages and backgrounds and is integral to the nation’s culture. Today, more than half of Pakistan’s population keeps up with the regular schedule of cricket tournaments.

Similarly, field hockey holds a solid fan base here. Other popular sports include squash, soccer, polo, badminton, and table tennis.

New Zealand

New Zealand may be a small country, but it has big sports talent that it takes seriously. For most New Zealanders, winning a rugby match against Australia is the highlight of the season. But other sports like cricket, netball, mountain biking, and sailing enjoy immense support too.


Meanwhile, soccer is one of the most-watched sports in Mexico. Like in other parts of Latin America, millions of fans tune in to watch soccer matches at the height of the season.

Boxing comes a close second. Meanwhile, Mexican rodeo, or charrería, is celebrated as the national sport because it embodies essential cultural values. UNESCO has even recognized it as an intangible cultural heritage.


Argentina’s diversity and pleasant climate influence its sports. You’ll find most people engaged in playing or watching soccer, but rugby and basketball garner a lot of support too. Other popular options include tennis, polo, field hockey, and circuit auto racing.


Indonesia is a lush country with a rich cultural history. The emphasis on precision and protocol makes sports like badminton and soccer particularly popular here.

Local fans also enjoy the gameplay in Esports. There is strong backing for sports like basketball, volleyball, futsal, cycling, and boxing, too.

Popular but uncommon: the most unusual sports in the world

Some of the most unusual sports in the world today include the following.

Sport What is it? Gameplay Popular in…
Kabaddi A team contact sport with origins in ancient India. Two teams of seven try to touch out as many opposing players as possible before the defense can stop them. India
Sepak Takraw A team sport played with a rattan or plastic ball. Two teams try to kick the ball over a net using their head, feet, knees, chest, and shoulders on a badminton-like court. Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and other parts of Asia
Pato A team sport played on horseback. Two four-person teams battle it out on horseback to gain possession of the ball and score through a vertical ring. Argentina
Bossaball A team sport that combines elements of soccer, volleyball, and gymnastics. Players on two teams try to bounce as high as possible to spike a ball over the net on an inflatable court with trampolines on every side. Brazil
Canoe hurdling A Māori individual sport. Players try to jump unornamented river canoes over wooden beams placed in the water. New Zealand
Bandy A team winter and ball sport. Two teams on ice skates use sticks to score goals in the opposing team’s net. Russia and Sweden
Padel A modern game that incorporates elements of tennis and squash. Teams of two play against each other on an enclosed, tennis-like court. Spain

Table 5: Unusual sports around the world.

Sports reflect the unique peculiarities present in different countries and regions. They capture diversity better than much else, showing what is important to various cultures. Whether it’s loyalty and commitment, teamwork, or excellence, you can understand a society’s values by looking at its sports.

A whole world to explore

It may surprise you, but we have only just started exploring the world of sports and sporting events. With over 8,000 sports and sporting games in the world, there are plenty of options to discover.

Which sport do you enjoy playing? And which unusual ones have you experienced or would like to try? Let us know on social media.


What are the top 5 most popular sports in the world?

The 5 most popular sports in the world are association football (soccer), cricket, basketball, hockey, and rugby. Baseball, tennis, and golf also rank high on the list.

Why is it called association football, and why do Americans call it soccer?

During the 1880s, university students in the UK shortened the “association” in association football to “soccer.” By the time association football became popular in the US, American football was already a well-known sport. The UK, and most of the world, moved back to calling it football. But in the US, American football takes precedence, as it’s one of the country’s most beloved sports, which is why the name “soccer” stuck.

Why is cricket so popular in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh?

After India’s win at the sport’s biggest competition, cricket became immensely popular. Pride and excitement spread throughout the country, and to neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh. South Asian government resources also go towards developing and supporting cricket talent in the region.