Maybe you’re an avid golfer, or perhaps you’re a devoted college sports fan. No matter what you follow or play, sports are one of the United States’ most popular pastimes. In the spirit of friendly competition, we set out to find which states take sports obsession to the next level.
By looking at the national average number of searches for each sport, we were able to determine which states have the most (and least) avid sports enthusiasts—and the results may surprise you!
PrimePutt analysts found the five most sports-obsessed states and the most popular games in each location. From Nebraska's love of volleyball and American football to Connecticut's passion for soccer, we'll walk you through America’s sports obsession play-by-play.
Most Sports-Obsessed States in 2023
Interesting Facts & Findings
- Swimming is the most popular sport in 14 states, not to mention that it’s the most popular sport in the U.S. overall.
- American football ranks as the second most popular sport in the U.S.
- Most sports fans dislike contact sports, with the exception of American football, and the stats back this up: Rugby and boxing earned the rank of most popular in only one state each; ice hockey is the most popular sport in three states; wrestling is not the favorite sport in any of the fifty states.
- Even though baseball ranks as the most popular sport in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, none of these states has a professional major league baseball (MLB) team.
What Do We Define as a Sports-Obsessed State?
When it comes to defining a state obsessed with sports, there are a few things to consider. We accounted for the following in each state:
- Average attendance for professional team events
- College sports programs
- Local fan groups and followings
- Support for local star athletes
To determine the most sports-obsessed states, we looked at the average internet search volumes in certain states for certain sports. This data quickly provided a picture of which states stand out from the rest.
Without further ado, these are the top five sports-obsessed states in the U.S.
Boasting a culture centered around athletics, Nebraska is America's premier sports-crazed state. The state’s favorite sport is tied between American football and volleyball.
Following these top sports are soccer, swimming, and golf. In fact, Nebraska is the only state where volleyball is the most popular sport.
Schools like the University of Nebraska at Lincoln are renowned for their student-athletes and impressive Division I tournament successes. Not to mention that UNL’s sports teams are proudly supported by adoring Cornhusker fans.
The Cornhuskers have the 11th-highest rate of attendance in college football and the fourth-highest in the NCAA Big Ten conference—and for good reason. UNL proudly holds 29 national titles in five different sports, including five football titles and five volleyball titles.
Sports fans from across the state come out in droves to cheer on the Cornhuskers at every level of competition. That’s why it comes as no surprise that this midwestern state is the country’s most sports-obsessed state.
2. North Dakota
Coming in at number two is North Dakota, where fans can’t get enough of soccer, the state’s overall favorite sport. The second most popular sport in North Dakota is American football.
North Dakota may not have well-known professional or college sports franchises, but the state more than makes up for it in local athletics. North Dakota has produced famous athletes like Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, and basketball Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson.
North Dakotans show unwavering pride and support for their athletes, whether they’re small-town Little League baseball players or NCAA Division I athletes. People in North Dakota are very interested in building a spirit of sportsmanship in the state as a whole. From youngsters to seniors looking for an outdoor game—basketball or badminton—they're always ready and willing to join in on the fun!
Iowa's commitment to sports is undeniable, especially when it comes to the state’s favorite sport—basketball. The University of Iowa Hawkeyes has produced 33 athletes who went on to play in the NBA. Seven of these athletes even became NBA championship winners.
In the 1940s, the state’s women's wrestling teams were almost unbeatable. They won a number of national championships, and to this day, the Hawkeye wrestling teams are still undeniably capable.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have won 26 national championships, 23 of which were won by the Hawkeyes wrestling team alone. Iowa is also home to Dan Gable, one of the most prestigious wrestlers in history.
Iowa takes pride in American sports despite not having a major professional team. However, this changed recently when MLB brought professional teams to play in the Field of Dreams game, celebrating the classic baseball movie that was filmed in the state.
Connecticut isn't usually the first state that people think of when it comes to sports. But when it comes to soccer or the Hartford Athletic, this East Coast state is obsessed.
Baseball, especially, has been a staple in Connecticut since Mohegan Park's baseball stadium opened in the late 1800s.
The state is also home to legendary athletes like hockey champions the Hartford Whalers and MLB legends Mo Vaughn and Curt Schilling. All-time greats like David Karoly, who holds numerous medals for equestrian events around the world, make it clear why Connecticut is sports-obsessed.
Wisconsin sits at No. 5 on the list of the most sports-obsessed states. Wisconsin’s favorite sport is lacrosse, closely followed by golf. Yet, with a number of pro franchises under its belt, including the NBA Bucks, MLB Milwaukee Brewers, and NFL Packers, it's no wonder sports enthusiasm runs deep in the Badger State. Plus, popular college teams like the Wisconsin Badgers draw an even larger number of dedicated sports fans.
Wisconsin athletes have done well in professional sports leagues all over the world. Legendary coach Curly Lambeau co-founded the Packers franchise and led them to six NFL titles (pre-Super Bowl era). To date, the Green Bay Packers hold the most NFL titles in league history, with 13 under their belt.
From football to hockey and everything in between, Wisconsinites have a number of favorite teams to choose from and clearly an undeniable passion for sports.
Top 5 Least Sports-Obsessed States
While it's not to say that these states don't have enthusiastic sports fans, the following five stand out as the least sports-obsessed states in the U.S., according to the data:
- New Mexico
Louisiana and Mississippi’s favorite sport is baseball. In Oregon, New Mexico, and Alaska, the sport of choice is swimming. However, solo activities like fishing, running, or cycling also draw sports fans in these regions.
The Bottom Line: Sports Can’t Be Beat
Whatever sport, team, city, or jersey you represent, sports fandoms are integral to the cultures and identities of many states. The five states we've mentioned here as having some of the most passionate sports fans across the U.S. are truly remarkable for their enthusiasm, support, and dedication to their teams.
Whether it's watching kids play little league games or cheering on a professional baseball team, these five states know how to show their team spirit and have proven again and again that they have some of the most passionate sports fans in the country!
So there you have it, the top 5 most sports-obsessed states in America. How does your state rank?
The Playing Field: Our Methodology
We analyzed organic search trends in each state surrounding fifteen popular sports in the United States. We looked at the relative search volume of each sport, then took the overall average to determine the total relative search volume of sports in each state. States that had a tie on the average number share the same ranking.