Interesting Facts about the History of Sports in the United States: Take a Look at Some of the Most Popular Sports in US!

There is no doubt that sports have long been a part of the United States’ national culture. While it may be shocking for some people to know that there is no official national sport of US, there are several popular fun sports that are played widely and are very dear to the Americans!

1. Baseball

Some say that the defacto America’s most popular sport, Baseball is regarded as a national sport. It has also greatly contributed to the economic and sporting conditions of the country.

This team sport has been around for a while. There are some solid rules for playing Baseball. It is played in teams of two, with 9 players in each team. The game makes up for 9 innings in which each team alternate between batting and fielding in each inning. The baseball field is divided into two areas: infield and outfield. The overall field looks like a diamond shape as it has four bases, with a distance in between them for players to run. The batter stands on the home plate while the pitcher stands in the center of the infield, who throws the ball towards the batter. As soon as the ball is hit, the batter must complete a round by running and touching all the bases in order to score a run.

Baseball is regarded as a famous pastime activity that can be played in an open field with family and friends. It is also played professionally in the US with the Major League Baseball (MLB), a professional baseball organization that was formed with two professional US baseball leagues- American League (AL) and National League (NL). With a high TV viewership as well as one of the top America sports with high average attendance.

2. American Football

While Baseball has come close to being the national sport of US, American football is now regarded as a more popular sport with a higher viewership audience in the past decades. It has been recorded as having the highest average attendance for any professional sports. The National Football League (NFL) is one of the most profitable sports leagues in the world with around $16 billion revenue estimated. However, the peak popularity of this sport comes in the form of the Super Bowl, an annual league championship game with millions of viewers every year!

While American football is a well-known sport, it can still be a bit complex for a beginner to understand. So how is it played? There are two opposing teams with 11 players in each group. The game is split into 4 quarters with 15 minutes each. The objective of the game is simple: to score more points, which is done by throwing the ball into the opposing team’s end zone. However, there are a few ways of scoring a point:

  • Touchdown: here a team can score points by crossing the opponent’s goal line with the ball or by catching it in the end zone. 6 points can be gained by a touchdown.
  • Field goal: this is usually done in the fourth quarter; it can be done from anywhere on the field. If the kicker performs a successful kick, then 3 points can be scored.
  • Safety: 2 points can be scored by a team if they can tackle the attacking member of the opposing team in their own end zone.
  • Extra point: a point can be scored by the attacking team if they kick the ball after the touchdown.

If the scores are tied, then the teams get an additional quarter to play until the winner is declared!

3. Basketball

Among the top sports played nationally in the US and even can play by 2 player, Basketball has to be one of them. This sport has been admired and played in the US since 1980s. It is played as both collegiate and professional basketball in the US. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is undoubtedly one of the most popular leagues with some of the famous personalities such as the late Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan who have a massive fan following from around the world. Basketball has a TV viewership of around 26 million with also a full-house presence of the fans, including some prominent celebrities at the professional games.

In simple terms, Basketball is a team sport usually containing five players in each team which is played in a rectangular court, with an aim of throwing the basketball through the defender’s hoop, while restricting the opponent team from scoring a goal.

4. Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey is a quite popular and an old sport in the US, with its origins from North America. Players wear skates to play this modified version of hockey on an ice rink. It is said that this Olympic sport became more famous with the invention of ice rinks. America won its first gold medal in the Winter Olympics while playing this sport. Each team usually has six players. The goal is to send the puck past the goal line with a hockey stick into a net secured by a goaltender.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is a professional ice hockey league that is one of the major leagues in the United States. The league is played mostly from October-April with each team playing up to 86 games!

5. Lacrosse

While we talk about the sports history in the US, we cannot leave out Lacrosse as it is the oldest sport played in the US, with over a few millennia of its presence! Although its popularity has decreased over the decades, let’s take a look at how it is played.

Lacrosse is a competitive contact team sport which is played with a lacrosse stick and a lacrosse ball. A typical game usually consists of a goalkeeper, three defensemen, three attackmen and three midfielders, from which one is the center. The game is split into four parts of 15 minutes each, with an interval of a minute between the first and second quarters, followed by halftime and then the same 1-minute interval between the third and fourth quarters. 

Fun fact: While these are some of the most popular league sports played in the US for decades, some have their origins are from European countries that evolved over to the Americans! While Volleyball, Skateboarding, Snowboarding and Ultimate are a few of American derived sports that have gained popularity across other countries.

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Written by Usama

Usama J. is a passionate writer about the sports and works as an in house sports journalist at Openiun, and covered many international sporting events including ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022.