Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States

In the USA, there’s nothing like college sports. The passion for the games comes not only from the school’s pride for their team but for the entire communities and cities in which the school is based.

Collegiate games are the avenue for rising athletes to showcase their potential and get a chance to venture into the professional leagues.

There are several sports events that are loved by the fans and with the most number of competitors across the country. Check out the most popular collegiate sports in the US below. 

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Soccer
  • Lacrosse
  • Ice Hockey
  • Volleyball
  • Swimming and Diving
  • Wrestling
  • Cross Country Racing
Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
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Football

Undoubtedly one of the most popular sports in the United States, football is a team sport that is played by two opposing teams in a rectangular field with goalposts at both ends. This sport involves immense physicality and exciting plays that fans love.

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
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According to a report, there were over 47 million attendees in total for all regular-season college games in 2019-2020. A game in 2016 between Virginia Tech and Tennessee was flocked by over 150,000 fans. 

The support of the home crowd is key to these numbers, as stadiums fill with students, faculty, alumni, and locals from the community. 

But that’s not where the viewership stops. Television networks also televise live games and draw over 145 million viewers in total.

Basketball

Considered to be the second most popular sport at the collegiate level, basketball is a team sport with two opposing teams with five players on the court trying to score a goal on the opposing team’s hoop by shooting the ball through it. 

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
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The sport draws fans from across the country for its several competitions in different divisions.

The most popular is the March Madness competition for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I Championships where the 68 teams play in a six-round single-elimination format. Television ratings for tournaments and big games often reach 23 million viewers. 

On average, there are around 32,000 in-house attendees for basketball games especially during the semifinals and finals in each tournament. in 2014 a record 79,000+ basketball fans attended a semifinals game of the NCAA Division I.

Baseball

College baseball is a highly-anticipated game because most of the stand-out players are recruited for the Major League Baseball (MLB) the top sports league for baseball in the USA. 

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
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There are over 300 participating teams annually for the regular season for NCAA Division I. Each team has its own solid home crowd. For example, in 2017, Louisiana State University recorded over 10,000 spectators on average for all their games in the season. 

The highest number of spectators in a single game for collegiate baseball happened in 2014. The game is between the Ole Miss Rebels Baseball Team and Mississippi State Bulldogs Baseball Team with 15,586 fans on hand at the Dudy Noble Field in Mississippi.

Soccer

Reports say that soccer is the fourth most popular sport in the US. This team sport is played by two opposing teams with 11 players each. The main objective is to kick the soccer ball across or in between the defender’s goalposts. 

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
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In 2019, there was a consistent record of around 7,500 spectators for each game. This sport is drawing the attention of fans across the country. According to a survey, there is a 27% increase in the level of interest of Americans in soccer.

At present, there are 48 teams in the NCAA Division I for Men’s Soccer Championships wherein the Saint Louis Billikens Men’s Soccer Teams is the most successful program with 10 championships under their belt. 

Lacrosse

Lacrosse is a team sport that involves a stick with a net to shoot the ball into the opponent’s goal. This is played in full field with 10 players for each team consisting of one goalie, three attackmen, three midfielders, and three defenders. 

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
Image Source: USA Lacrosse Magazine

This sport is considered to be the fastest-growing sport in terms of popularity, surpassing baseball, soccer, swimming, ice hockey, and many more. The sport is gaining rising visibility in mainstream media, including live broadcasts for television.

In 2018, one semifinal match had 30,616 fans show up. In the finals game of Yale University against Duke University, the spectators almost breached 30,000 fans as well. With its rise in popularity, the number of players has also doubled. At present, there are almost 40,000 lacrosse players across the United States.

Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey is a staple televised sport in the United States dating back to the 1950s. This sport is a high-contact team sport that aims to shoot a rubber puck in the opponent’s goal while ice skating. This game may be played outside on a rink or inside an arena. 

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
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So far, the sport’s peak popularity saw 113,000 spectators flock to a college stadium in Michigan. There are 61 ice hockey teams in the NCAA Division I at present. 

21 teams are in Division II and 81 teams from Division III are feeders to reach the NCAA Division I level. Even games in other subdivisions are watched by many fans across the States.  

Volleyball

Volleyball is played by two teams of six players each on a court separated by a net. Each team tries to score a point by making sure that the opposing team cannot return or volley the ball back to their side of the net. 

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
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The teams comprise of one setter, two open spikers, one opposite spiker, one or two middle blockers, and a libero. 

The sport of college volleyball is followed by lots of fans, especially in the women’s category. There are 62 teams in the NCAA Division I where the Stanford University Cardinals have the most number of championship titles with nine. 

The highest recorded attendance happened in the 2017 finals with 18,516 attendance. At present, there are over 300 NCAA member schools that sponsor volleyball making it over 10,000 volleyball players playing in the college league. 

Swimming and Diving

This water sport requires stamina and speed across its several events such as individual race and group relays. Swimming has long been a popular sport in the US, even the world. This sport is acknowledged to be a staple or constant fan-drawing tournament.

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
Image Source: Swimming World

There are some reports that the popularity of the sport is dwindling due to the lack of support from institutions or some private sponsorships. However, the athletes continue swimming and diving as their number continues to grow. In the latest record, there are over 20,000 college swimmers competing in the NCAA.  

Fans still support the sport because of the quality athletes that these collegiate tournaments produce. For example, 10 out of 35 members of the US Olympic Swimming Team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio are students and alumni of the University of California Berkeley. 

Wrestling

One of the most physical and injury-prone sports in the valley of sports events, collegiate wrestling is usually played by men who focus on the skill of grappling. The women’s division is also on the rise in popularity after officially adopting the ruleset from the international governing organization, United World Wrestling.

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
Image Source: Pioneer Press

Collegiate wrestling is rising with a steady increase in the number of athletes and institutions supporting the programs. At present, it is called scholastic wrestling.

The increase in popularity does not only happen among the athletes but also with the fans. The 2016 Grapple on the Gridiron game drew over 42,000 college students as spectators. These days, there are hundreds or thousands of fans watching each game.

Cross Country Racing

This long-distance-running sport is held usually during the winner and fall. The athletes are required to run along a pastoral terrain, usually golf courses or any green fields, with a distance between 2mi to 12mi. Cross country racing is a popular track and field sporting event.

Find Out Which Are the Most Popular College Sports in the United States
Image Source: NCAA

Considered to be one of the easiest to train athletes, cross country racing is an in-demand sport among athletes. In 2017, there were over 2,000 NCAA participating schools in that year’s cross country events. Finding sponsorship is not a problem since training does not require expensive equipment and facilities.

For a long time, local television companies have showcased the NCAA Division I event. However, ESPN signed a contract to televise sports matches from 2020 until 2023. This is solid proof that the interest in the sport is expanding to a larger audience.

Conclusion

Collegiate sports are regarded as one of the stepping stones for aspiring athletes who wish to enter the professional league of their respective sports events. This is possible through the support of their institutions and the training and valuable experiences through various competitions.

These college sports are the most popular sports in USA colleges based on the number of athletes and the massive number of fans supporting the teams.