All of us have our preferences when it comes to our favorite sports, but have you ever wondered which sport is the most popular across the globe?
The problem here is that the definition of popular is extremely SUBJECTIVE.
However, to simplify it, popular is that sport which has the most viewership, is played the most or the sport with the highest ratio of passionate fans
It is believed that soccer, also referred to as football in European countries, is one of the most popular sports across the globe to date.
The origin of this sport dates to decades and can be easily found in almost all historic accounts and geographical regions.
Back in the 1700s, Chinese literature indicated soccer to be a popular sport. However, the game took its shape in England. The first Football Association (FA) was established in Great Britain in 1863.
Primarily, the sport is played between eleven players. It is estimated that 250 million players are currently committed to the game in almost more than 200 countries. This makes it the most popular sport across the globe.
A study conducted in 2018 indicated that almost 43% of the overall population globally identified themselves as soccer fans.
Nearly 3.5 to 4 billion people around the world claim to be soccer fans. This makes soccer above all other sports in terms of its following.
So, why is soccer so popular?
It is incredible to see how people from almost all parts of the world enjoy soccer. Some fans practice it like they practice their religion, that’s how strong an impact it has.
Soccer is one of the sports in the world with the ability to halt cities and countries for just one game. Explaining why people feel so strongly for this game is extremely hard, even for a diehard fan like me.
What countries are soccer most popular in?
Soccer is an inclusive sport. It is played and loved by all classes of people.
Now, the question here arises – how come is soccer the world’s most popular sport?
And, if we take it one step further – what countries are soccer most popular in?
Let’s tackle the first question: how is soccer the world’s most popular sport?
The first and foremost reason is the global fan base and audience. Not only do the sports have followers from across the globe, but the players who participate in different professional, semi-pro, and amateur leagues cross over 250 million.
Apart from this, other factors that come into play are:
- TV rights deal
- TV viewership
- Popularity on the internet and social media
- Number of professional leagues and players in the world
- Sponsorship deals
- Relevancy and audience interest throughout the year
In every factor mentioned above, no other sport comes close to soccer. This game has better deals, more passionate supporters and audience, impressive sponsorship deals, and more.
If it was ‘just’ about the number of fans, China would lead the charts with a massive population of over 1.4 billion and India of 1.39 billion people.
Although both countries have some presence in the sport internationally and domestically, soccer is not the first choice sport in both countries.
Let’s discuss the countries where soccer is ‘actually’ most followed:
England – the most obvious nation to be included in the list!
Even though it was not the first nation to play or ‘invent’ the sport, England was the first country to give this sport the shape which we love to see and play today.
The first Football Association (FA) was founded in England in 1863 and is one of the driving forces behind the current state of soccer.
With roughly 1.9 million players and 40,000 registered clubs, soccer is the most popular sport in England by a margin.
England is also home to the world’s richest and most competitive domestic soccer league, English Premier League!
Whether we talk about big name players, sponsorship deals, or managers – everyone dreams of being a part of the Premier League one way or another.
The primary reason why soccer is SO popular in the country is because of the simplicity of the game. All you need is a spherical ball and an empty lot or field!
The sport is easy to understand and is considered a noble profession in the UK.
Apart from this, it all comes down to the passionate fans and supporters of different domestic teams. An average of 38,484 fans per game attend matches on a weekly basis in the Premier League.
The national team also managed to reach finals of a major international tournament in 2021. England faced Italy in the final of UEFA Euro 2021.
From supporters of different clubs to the media, it seemed like the entire country was united by one sport on that day – SOCCER!
Maybe not the name you expected so up top in the list, but Brazilians are ‘C-R-A-Z-Y’ about soccer. The scope of this sport in the country is immense.
Brazil is also known as the ‘country of football’ or ‘o País do Futebol’. People in the country follow this sport as a lifestyle. And, some consider it to be a part of their heritage.
An unexpected entry – yes, but it is only because the domestic league(s) are not as popular as the top 5 leagues in the world.
But when we talk about specifics; Brazil has over 29,000 registered clubs for which more than 2.1 million players participate.
This is just the domestic structure we are talking about!
Ever since I started watching soccer, Brazil has been a top name in every international friendly or tournament. From the era of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho to Casemiro and Neymar, it is one of the most consistent teams in the game.
Children in the country learn about soccer at a very young age and they consider it as their religion. Brazil is known for producing some of the finest talents in soccer.
Soccer in Germany is widely followed not only by the Germans, but a wide variety of global audiences.
Germany has 26,000 registered soccer clubs and 6.6 million members (including players, coaches, directors, and more) are involved in the game on professional, semi-pro, and amateur levels.
This means nearly 8% of the total population is involved in this beautiful sport in the country.
Have you ever wondered what inspires the passion of Germans during soccer matches? No matter if they are players, coaches, or fans; their tank-like spirit is what they bring to the stadium.
They are one of the most successful nations in soccer having won four FIFA World Cups, three European Championships, and one Confederations Cup (2021).
With an incredible national team, decent domestic league structure and top flight soccer league, and top name players – soccer in Germany is quite popular.
The name is enough! The UEFA Euro 2020 champions!
You know how big and popular soccer is in Italy. The country is VERY passionate about the sport.
If you ever see two Italians talking to each other with passion, they are either discussing their favorite pizza shop (without pineapples) or soccer.
From enthusiastic and passionate fans to highly physical and defensive games, the nation is born and ready to play soccer. It is the most popular sport in the country with no other competition.
Italy’s soccer system has approximately 13,000 registered soccer clubs that have played over 583,340 games.
Serie A, the country’s top tier soccer league, is one of the most watched competitions in recent times.
The high-quality games, players, and rivalries make it interesting to be followed from all over the world.
In Italy, soccer is not ordinary. It is a dream, a passion, a commitment, a lifestyle!
You can witness this whenever the national team players are on the field all set to sing the national anthem.
One of the major reasons why soccer is considered to be so important is because of its ability to give fans a voice, a ground – they can call home.
In a world where people are losing faith in the system, the law, the infrastructure, soccer gives them the opportunity to be part of the change, to be witnesses, in a nutshell be the participants.
Italy is known as one of the most civilized countries for soccer.
Soccer and Tennis are the most followed sports in France. However, soccer is two times more followed than its counterpart.
One of the oldest European nations to play the game, France is an internationally recognized sporting nation having won the FIFA World Cup more than once.
The country has over 17,000 registered clubs for which the French Football Federation (FFF) has issued licenses to more than two million people to make sure the game is played, broadcasted, and followed properly.
Soccer is the most popular sport in the country followed by tennis and basketball.
Writing this reminds me about the golden time of Spain’s supremacy in the World of Soccer which began back in 2008. What exciting times!
Every team feared facing Spain in any national tournament – the team was THAT good.
The nation has really been at the forefront of this sport in the form of the national team as well as two of the most professional soccer clubs: Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Spain has 28,451 registered soccer clubs and over 1.06 million registered players associated with this beautiful game.
The Netherlands is a developed soccer nation with some of the best players in the world.
Like other European nations, soccer is the most followed sport in the country.
However, the professional leagues are not widely followed by a global audience, unless the teams feature in UEFA competitions.
The national team, on the other hand, has been putting out consistent performances in friendlies and tournaments.
The Dutch soccer system is not big. Despite its small size, different professional, semi pro, and amateur leagues are played by nearly 1 million members.
Soccer is highly accessible in the country and the Netherlands has a soccer club in almost every town or city.
The Netherlands has a different way to watch and support their teams. Let’s talk about the national team first; in any major national tournament – the entire country turns ORANGE to show support.
Some of the best players to have made the mark in the scene include Johan Cruyff, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Edwin van der Sar, Robin van Persie, Frank de Boer, and more.
The soccer system of Russia and its fan following is almost as big as the country itself. People normally consider ice hockey to be the most popular sport in the country.
Well, that is not true!
Soccer reigns supreme in Russia where a large population is passionate about following the sport. Whether it is a national game or domestic league, Russia’s soccer system has a decent following.
Even though not popular across the globe, the country still has over 40,000 registered soccer clubs.
A small name with a big heart!
There are so many things you admire about Turkey and soccer is one of them. It does not matter if the national team has not yet had luck in any international tournament.
The crazy set of supporters loves supporting national and their respective domestic teams.
The Turkish soccer system is widely recognized and loved by soccer fans. The passion, intense rivalries, young and rising talent of overall 600,000 players – it has everything to offer.
10. United States
The United States is the ONLY country in the list where soccer is NOT the most popular sport in the country. However, it has a significant following due to several reasons including good structure and quality of the soccer system.
In the past decade or so, not only is the national team striving hard to challenge other teams in international friendlies and tournaments, but the domestic structure is also taking shape.
The MLS, or Major Soccer League, is followed by millions of fans around the world. This is mainly due to big names playing for MLS clubs and sponsorship and viewership deals.
The United States has 4,186,778 registered players participating in over 9,000 clubs.
Like other South American nations, Argentineans are also passionate about soccer and love this sport deeply.
The sport started to get some popularity in the 19th century when British sailors introduced the game during their travel to Rio de la Plata basin.
Argentina has an amazing soccer system that provides a chance to people at a very young age to become professional players.
However, it does not have a high number of registered clubs or players in comparison to countries mentioned in this list.
Argentina has roughly over 3,000 registered soccer clubs and 331,811 registered players.
The country is home to some of the biggest stars in the history of this sport – Diego Maradona who passed away in 2020 and the living legend Lionel Messi.
Soccer is the passion of the nation!
Referred to as ‘futebol’ in the country, it is the national sport of Portugal. Soccer dates back to hundreds of years ago and it has grown significantly since then.
The nation is now considered as one of the developed teams in soccer challenging for international titles and honors.
Portugal has over 177,000 registered soccer players actively participating in their respective clubs.
Not only is the sport BIG, but supporters take soccer traditions very very seriously.
The supporters in the country are also superstitious. No matter if it’s a big game on an international or domestic level, fans have special clothing as a good luck charm.
To be honest, soccer is not the most popular sport in Japan. But, it has gained significant momentum in the past few years over baseball (which is the most followed sport).
Japan is a real underdog team in international tournaments capable enough to cause major upsets.
14. South Korea
Even though the national game of South Korea is Taekwondo due to historical origins, roughly 41% of South Koreans love soccer.
In 1983, soccer was one of the first leagues to be established in the country and since then the game has 1 million registered members of which more than 100,000 are players only.
The country has not had much international success in the tournaments. However, it is known for establishing some of the finest players like Park Ji-Sung, Son Heung-min, Ki Sung-yueng, and more.
Over the past couple of years, the local sports market of China has blossomed. The popularity of soccer increased instrumentally in the mid 2000s.
It has now become one of the most followed sports within the region. Over the past ten years, the Chinese Super League (CSL), the popular local professional soccer association has gained immense popularity to attract the highest attendance of fans in comparison to other sports within China.
To sum it up, soccer is a world sport. Played, watched, and loved in over 200 countries, soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
England is the first nation to give soccer its true shape – and, to this date it has been one of the primary nations to ensure it evolves with the passage of time.
Hence, soccer is most popular in England with a better fan following, TV viewership, soccer system, number of professional leagues and players, and more.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!