Soccer in the United States and the World, Part I

The conventional belief holds that soccer is the most popular sport everywhere in the world except the United States, yet:

Most people live in a country where soccer is not the most popular sport.

As with any discussion concerning world population, we start with China. China makes up about 20% of the world’s population. According to both FIBA (the international basketball federation) and FIFA (the international soccer federation) many more Chinese play basketball than soccer. [2] China failed to field a team to compete in the 2010 soccer World Cup. [3] And the NBA is the most popular professional sports league in the country.[4]

In India, the world’s second most populous nation, the major sport is cricket.[5] In the United States, #3 in population, the NFL is the most popular professional sports league and basketball is the most commonly played team sport.[6] With these three countries alone, we have already identified about 41% of the world’s population as living in a country where soccer is not the most popular sport.

It is too difficult to discern the most popular sport in Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation, so we will not include it in our total of “nations where soccer is not the most popular sport,” and the fifth largest country in the world is Brazil which is clearly soccer mad.

But we are already close. Throw in a few more cricket nations – Pakistan and Bangladesh – plus a hockey nation (Russia),  a baseball nation (Japan) and another basketball nation (the Philippines) and we now have a list of nations that hold more than 51% of the world’s population…with plenty to spare. If we needed to gild the lily we could point out that Canada and several Scandinavian nations almost certainly favor hockey, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela probably favor baseball and a number of Eastern European nations are places where basketball appears to be the top national sport.

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