One of the most popular forms of entertainment in the world is sports, mostly because you can both watch and play. But what are the biggest sports in the world by participation?
In this post, we’ve made an overview of the biggest sports based on how many people actually play the game on a yearly basis.
We understand that these numbers fluctuate, and some sports might overtake another at some point (think of soccer growing in popularity in the USA), so we’ll try to update this list if this happens.
This list is created based on the number of people actually playing the sport on a regular basis, and as You’ll see, a lot of people like to play sports (which we believe is a good thing altogether).
The modern game of golf originated in Scotland in the 15th century and it made it to the top 10 played sports in the world today. The popularity of golf is calculated based on golfers completing one round of golf each year at the golf club.
Total number of participants: 60 Million.
Cricket originated in the 16th century in South-East England and actually became the national sport in the 18th century. This popularity spread over the world in the 19th and 20th centuries and enjoys great popularity today in India, Pakistan Australia, South Africa, and the UK.
Total number of participants: 62 million.
8. Baseball / Softball
Predominantly popular in the United States, baseball is increasing in popularity in several other countries in the world, including Japan. Baseball and the female version called “Softball” is played in great baseball stadiums in over 140 countries in the world.
Total number of participants: 65 million.
While the original game preceding the modern game of tennis was played with the hands in the 12th century in France, rackets are being held in just about any country in the world today. Tennis can be played individually or with a partner (doubles), increasing the popularity of tennis even further.
Total number of participants: 75 million.
The modern game of badminton was established by the dukes of Beaufort in Gloucestershire, England in 1873 after it was introduced to him by English soldiers returning from India who learning about a similar game called “Poona.” Even though the modern game hasn’t had multiple centuries of history, it has quickly become one of the most popular sports in the world.
Total number of participants: 220 million.
The Tour de France is one of the biggest sporting events in the world and is one of the reasons why the sport of cycling is so popular. It’s estimated that over 50 million people in Europe cycle every day, making it one of the most popular sports in the world.
Total number of participants: 250 million.
4. Table Tennis
The sport of table tennis, also referred to as ping-pong originated in Victorian England and was mostly an upper-class entertainment game after dinner. At the moment, it’s one of the most popular sports in the world as it’s played in just about any country and is especially popular in Asian countries.
Total number of players: 300 million.
Even though basketball originated in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, it’s being played all over the world today. Especially the immense popularity of the NBA has aided to spread the word about the sport quickly. Another reason why it nearly tops the list is because of the huge number of recreational players in urban areas all around the world.
Total number of participants: 475 million.
Perhaps a surprising number 2 in the list is volleyball, a game that originated shortly after basketball in Massachusetts for people that didn’t like the contact game of basketball. Right now, volleyball is played indoors and outdoors in over 200 countries in the world resulting in a mighty impressive number of participants for a sport just over 120 years old.
Total number of participants: 800 million.
1. Football / Soccer
The most popular sport in the world is football (find out which countries call it soccer here) which is officially played by over 265 million people worldwide. This doesn’t include the hundreds of millions of recreational players that enjoy kicking the ball in the park or on the beach every now and then. It’s by far the most popular sports whatever ranking factor is used, including the most popular sports by participation.
Total number of participants: 1.325 billion.