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Data Study

Cities With the Most Professional Sports Franchises

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College basketball takes center stage on the sports calendar each March as the NCAA basketball tournament gets underway. The tournament brings a packed three weeks of high-pressure games as 68 teams compete for the college basketball crown.

Along the way, millions of Americans fill out brackets, join office pools, and tune in to games as March Madness unfolds. For most of the rest of the year, professional sports are more popular among US sports fans.

Popularity of Professional Sports

According to polling from Gallup, professional football is America’s most popular sport, with 62% of Americans identifying as fans, and professional baseball is close behind with 57%.

And the two less popular major pro sports, basketball and hockey, have each trended upward significantly in popularity over the last two decades. Meanwhile, both college football and college basketball lag slightly behind their professional equivalents in popularity.

One caveat to this data is that sports fandom in the United States can be highly regionalized. There is varying interest in different professional sports or in college athletics depending on location.

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Pro Sports Concentrated in Large Metros

The four major sports leagues — Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and National Football League (NFL) — together contain 124 franchises across the United States and Canada. But these professional franchises are concentrated in a relatively limited number of locations.

Most of the markets where professional franchises set up shop have large populations, strong TV markets, and residents with disposable income to support ticket and merchandise sales. And many markets have been found to be well-suited for some sports but not others — like football in Jacksonville or basketball in Portland.

As a result, nearly half of all professional sports franchises are based in just seven US states — and in particular, the seven with the most residents.

California and New York not only have multiple metro areas that are able to support professional sports franchises but, in the cases of Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and New York City, also have metro regions large enough to sustain multiple franchises in the same sport.

Among smaller states with professional sports, it is more common to have a lower number of sports or teams represented. Four states have only two professional teams and another four have only one.

Nearly half of all professional sports franchises are based in 7 US states

Inequality Between States

Because of how professional sports franchises are concentrated, many states have no teams competing at the highest level of the four major sports. Just under half of all states lack any professional franchise, with most of these being located in the South, the central US, and New England.

In contrast, California leads the US with 15 professional franchises spread across several major metros in the state: three in the NFL, three in the NHL, four in the NBA, and five in MLB.

At the metro level, almost every major US city has at least one sports franchise, and many have more than that. Twelve US metro areas host at least one team from each of the four major sports, and another seven are home to at least three different professional sports.

About half of all US states have no professional sports franchises

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Researchers at HotDog.com ranked US and Canadian metropolitan areas according to the total number of active, professional football, basketball, baseball, and hockey franchises operating in each location.

The information was sourced directly from each league. In the analysis, franchises are attributed to the metro and state in which they are currently branded to be from. In the event of a tie, the location with the greater collective tenure of their active franchises was ranked higher.

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Metros With the Most Professional Sports Franchises

Here are the metropolitan areas with the most professional sports franchises.

Seattle, Washington
Photo Credit: Checubus / Shutterstock

20. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

  • Total number of professional sports franchises: 3
  • NFL franchises: Seattle Seahawks
  • NBA franchises: N/A
  • MLB franchises: Seattle Mariners
  • NHL franchises: Seattle Kraken
Tampa, FL
Photo Credit: Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock

19. Tampa-St Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

Houston, TX
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

18. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

Atlanta, GA
Photo Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

17. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA

Toronto, CA
Photo Credit: S-F / Shutterstock

16. Toronto, ON

  • Total number of professional sports franchises: 3
  • NFL franchises: N/A
  • NBA franchises: Toronto Raptors
  • MLB franchises: Toronto Blue Jays
  • NHL franchises: Toronto Maple Leafs
Cleveland, OH
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

15. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

Pittsburgh, PA
Photo Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

14. Pittsburgh, PA

Phoenix, AZ
Photo Credit: Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock

13. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ

  • Total number of professional sports franchises: 4
  • NFL franchises: Airzona Cardinals
  • NBA franchises: Phoenix Suns
  • MLB franchises: Arizona Diamondbacks
  • NHL franchises: Arizona Coyotes
Miami, FL
Photo Credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock

12. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

Denver, CO
Photo Credit: Virrage Images / Shutterstock

11. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

Minneapolis, MN
Photo Credit: Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock

10. Minneapolis-St Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

Dallas, TX
Photo Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock

9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

District of Columbia
Photo Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

San Francisco, CA
Photo Credit: GagliardiPhotography / Shutterstock

7. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

Philadelphia, PN
Photo Credit: Gang Liu / Shutterstock

6. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

Boston, MA
Photo Credit: Songquan Deng / Shutterstock

5. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

Detroit, MI
Photo Credit: Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock

4. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

Chicago, IL
Photo Credit: JoelC024 / Shutterstock

3. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

Los Angeles, CA
Photo Credit: Eric Urquhart / Shutterstock

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

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New York
Photo Credit: TierneyMJ / Shutterstock

1. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

  • Total number of professional sports franchises: 9
  • NFL franchises: New York Giants, New York Jets
  • NBA franchises: Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks
  • MLB franchises: New York Mets, New York Yankees
  • NHL franchises: New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers

Methodology and Detailed Findings

Researchers ranked US and Canadian metropolitan areas according to the total number of active, professional football, basketball, baseball, and hockey franchises operating in each location. The information was sourced directly from each league.

In the analysis, franchises are attributed to the metro and state in which they are currently branded to be from. In the event of a tie, the location with the greater collective tenure of their active franchises was ranked higher.

Featured image cropped from Busch Stadium, St Louis, MO by Phil under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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By Frank Moraes

Frank loves video. How else could he watch one to two films every day?

He started streaming early, back in 2007 when Netflix introduced what seemed revolutionary even then, "instant watch," or what would eventually become the totality of the company. Then Hulu started and he was hooked. Very little work got done in 2008.

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