Amazing Maps of the Sports World
Maps can teach us about where we’re going and show us where we’ve been. Sports maps also can do those things. They can show us trends or help us see the history of the games and teams we love. They can teach us interesting facts, too.
Thanks to social media, the internet and an abundance of data, these kinds of maps have never been more accessible. On top of that, they are a great way to look at sports and stir up debate.
Here are the most incredible maps of the sports world.
World’s Most Popular Sports
People love sports, but every country has different tastes.
Soccer is by far the world’s most popular sport, though the United States prefers its own football.
The Caribbean and Japan love baseball, while unsurprisingly ice hockey rules Canada and Finland.
Global Sports Trends by Country
Want to know global sports trends?
This map and graph are fascinating because it shows how sports have trended both in the United States and across the planet, based on Google searches from 2004 to 2018.
You can see how interest in soccer spikes especially during World Cup years and how American football has taken off across the world.
North American Sports Teams
Here it is, folks, the full professional sports map of North America (as of June 2018).
It has team names and locations for each club in baseball (MLB), basketball (NBA), football (NFL), hockey (NHL) and soccer (MLS) across the United States and Canada.
Today, there are 30 teams in MLB, 30 in the NBA 32 in the NFL, 31 in the NHL and 26 in MLS. That's 149 teams playing professional sports in North America.
Each U.S. County’s Closest Sports Team
There are more than 120 teams in the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL, and here is the closest one to you based on the United States county in which you live.
The New York Giants are not denoted on here but could just as easily supplant the Jets — they play at the same facility, MetLife Stadium — and the Los Angeles Lakers are also supplanted by the Dodgers despite being the most popular NBA team (see below).
Pre-War NFL Cities
The National Football League is more than 100 years old.
This map gives a glimpse of what the league looked like in its infancy.
Flagship teams that are still in existence are listed in black while the other cities lost their original NFL franchise.
The NFL merged with the AFL in 1970, after Super Bowl IV. This map shows each team that either played in the NFL or joined it as part of the merger.
Cities in red were AFL cities. Municipalities written in black were original NFL cities. Cities in blue were NFL cities that moved to the AFC in the merger.
New York is the only city that had — and still does have — one team in each league.
NFL Fans by State
Facebook compiled data based on people’s "like" preferences, then developed this map to display what regions of the United States supported which NFL team in 2013.
It goes about how you’d expect, except in places where there’s no clear-cut team, like Alaska.
The Last Frontier, for example, is mostly Green Bay Packers territory for some reason.
Most Hated NFL Teams
Where is the NFL hate? This map provides a visualization of the teams that people love to boo.
It’s surprising to see how far the Dallas Cowboys have fallen in the eyes of vitriolic fans. It’s also surprising to see how wide the hate is for the Green Bay Packers.
But either way, this map, compiled by Twitter, showcases which teams are the most hated by U.S. states.
Power 5 Football Schools
College football has This map locates each school from the Power 5 football conferences, the Southeast, Atlantic Coast, Pacific-12, Big 10 and Big 12.
There are 14 schools in the SEC, 14 in the ACC, 14 in the Big 10, 10 in the Big 12 and 12 in the Pac-12,
Other than some curious outliers — looking at you, West Virginia and Rutgers — these schools all seem relatively defined by geography.
College Football Fandom
There are millions of college football fans, and they all have different rooting interests.
This map might seem like a breakdown in geography, but it’s fascinating to see which schools reign in certain parts of the nation — and which traditional powers can’t even command their own city (mostly UCLA).
It’s also fascinating to see Oregon command Alaska, and how divided regions without FBS teams are like New England and the Dakotas.
Big 8 Member Schools
Before the Big 12, there was the Big 8, a conference dominated by football powerhouses and Kansas in basketball.
The conference existed as you see it from 1958 to 1996, when it expanded to include four Southwest Conference schools —Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech — but has since lost Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and A&M.
Ironically, the Big 12 now has 10 schools.
Division II Football Teams
Division II sometimes gets lost between FCS and Division 3 (see below), but there’s a huge country of D2 schools that play football.
These schools are spread out across North America from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire to Azusa Pacific outside of Los Angeles and Florida Tech to Simon Fraser University in Canada.
Division III Football Teams
You might know Division III as the football players who compete for the love of the game. Well, this map also will tell you where each team is located.
It also identifies the name and location of each member school with its color-coded conference.
There’s a whole lot of empty space in the Mountain Time Zone.
Junior College Football Teams
Junior college football doesn’t exist everywhere in the U.S., but it serves a purpose for players trying to straighten out their grades in order to transfer to another school.
Eighteen states have juco teams.
Highest-Paid State Employee
Want to make a lot of money? Become a college football or college basketball coach.
It might seem like common sense, but in all but eight U.S. states, the highest-paid state employee is either a college basketball or football coach at a public university (as of 2016).
We suspect much hasn’t changed since then, and in fact, it may only have gotten more extreme.
NBA Fans in North America
Ever wonder which pro basketball team is the most popular in a given county? Well, thanks to Twitter, we all now know. This interactive NBA fan map breaks down which team is the most popular by county and where each team’s fans reside in North America.
The Lakers are the most popular team across the U.S., and the Raptors command the most support from Canada.
Oddly, the Miami Heat are the most popular team in two counties in Alaska — despite their insanely far distance from South Florida.
Most Hated NBA Teams
If the Lakers are going to be the most loved NBA team, they’d also have to be the most hated too, right?
Twitter compiled this data that showed disdain mostly for California’s teams as the Warriors commanded 10 states and the Clippers also were most hated in three states.
The only non-California team to crack the top four? The Houston Rockets, who are most hated in Oklahoma and Utah.
The NBA looked a lot different when it merged with the ABA in 1976.
The league took on four new clubs, and three teams (Virginia, Kentucky and St. Louis) folded when the leagues joined forces.
Teams that existed in Kansas City, Seattle, New Orleans and Buffalo also moved out, though the league went back to the Big Easy when the Hornets moved there in 2002.
Division I Basketball Teams
Ever want to know exactly where each institution that plays Division I basketball is? This is the map for you.
Each school is mapped in the color-coded conference in which it plays hoops, and each state has at least one.
Most Hated College Basketball Teams
People love to hate royalty. That's why Duke, Kansas, Indiana, Arizona and Kentucky are all prominently featured on this map of the most hated college basketball teams in the U.S., which was compiled by a Reddit user.
Ironically North Carolina is more hated in its home state than Duke.
It also is more than a tad surprising to see Creighton featured in Nebraska — though the Blue Jays sure do travel well.
Most Loved College Basketball Teams
Where is the love for college basketball teams? Vivid Seats compiled this incredible map of the most popular college basketball team by United States county.
According to the data, Texas Tech, Minnesota and Kentucky are the most popular teams by county.
Duke only carries 20 U.S. counties, and the University of Arkansas is the only school to carry 100 percent of its state.
The New Big East
Many fans who follow college basketball know the Big East is still alive and well despite watching several flagship institutions flee in the 2000s and early 2010s.
Here is an up-to-date map of the member schools.
The University of Connecticut is rejoining the conference in the fall of 2020.
The WNBA has endured ups and downs like most leagues, which this map depicts well. Today, it has 12 teams.
The U.S.’s top women’s basketball league has had six teams fold and five relocate, including San Antonio’s shift to Las Vegas that is not depicted on this map.
Western Conference teams are in pink. Eastern Conference teams are in blue. Outlined squares are teams that no longer exist.
Most Popular MLB Teams
These maps are so cool. Seatgeek compiled data based on purchasing trends of the most popular Major League Baseball team by United States county.
The Atlanta Braves carried the most counties (515), with the Texas Rangers coming in second.
Pennsylvania was the state with the most split allegiances.
Most Hated MLB Teams
Where is the hate in Major League Baseball?
Unsurprisingly, the New York Yankees are baseball’s most hated team, as of 2019 data compiled by Twitter.
More surprisingly, though, is the fact the Chicago Cubs, the former loveable losers who won the World Series in 2016 are the second-most hated team by total states (7).
Division I College Baseball Teams
Major college baseball programs are less prominent than basketball, particularly in non-coastal states.
Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have zero Divison I baseball programs within their borders.
And South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa only have one top-tier college team.
International League Baseball Teams
As Major League Baseball has become more competitive, teams are more strategic in their minor league affiliate’s placement.
As the map shows, six eastern Triple-A teams (Red Sox, Iron Pigs, Bats, Clippers, Mudhens, Braves) are within 100 miles of their big league affiliate, and all are within 1,000 miles from their major league club.
This means a callup who needs to get to the park can do so with just a short flight.
Pre-1900 MLB Teams
A major pro sports team in Troy, New York? How about one in Worcester, Massachusetts? Those happened.
This map details all the pro baseball teams that represented MLB before the turn of the 20th century.
The cities labeled in black are cities whose clubs are still active today.
New York Yankees Radio Affiliates
Radio helped popularize baseball across the United States, and it's still a great way to follow the game.
The Yankees may be reviled by most of Red Sox Nation, but they are popular enough to warrant a radio presence in each of the six New England states.
Yankees games are also broadcast in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where their Triple-A affiliate plays, and also Florida.
World Baseball Classic Nations
Which country plays the best baseball in the world?
The World Baseball Classic helped answer this long-asked question by pitting the best players from each country against each other.
The Classic has been held four times (as of 2020), and the champions are labeled in red. Other nation’s top finish also is labeled by color.
Little League Baseball Regions
The Little League World Series expanded to 16 teams in 2001, enabling twice as many teams to compete for the championship in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania each year.
The U.S. map showcases each of the eight regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, Great Lakes, Northwest and West.
In 2021, the tournament is scheduled to expand again and will host 20 teams.
Defunct NHL Teams
Hockey fans are as passionate as it gets.
Like most leagues, the NHL went through some growing pains in its infancy, losing teams from hotbeds like Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Hamilton (Ontario).
Hamilton, Cleveland, Kansas City and Hartford (Connecticut) are cities that the league was unwilling to give a second shot.
Europe’s Favorite NHL Teams
Hockey is a global game.
This map showcases the most popular NHL team in each European country.
Fans support the team of their most popular player, which explains why Russia (Alex Ovechkin) supports the Washington Capitals and why Finland (Mikko Koivu) supports the Minnesota Wild.
Highest-Paid Athlete by Country
This map is a few years old (last updated in 2015), but it still gives insights into each country’s most popular sport based on how much each makes.
Most of the data confirm things we should suspect, but we’d bet you wouldn’t have guessed that the United States’ highest-paid athlete was a boxer. That would be Floyd "Money" Mayweather.
It pays to hit. And not get hit.
Soccer Players by Population Around the World
Over 250 million play football, or soccer, worldwide.
According to this map, which shows the number of football (soccer) players per population around the world, the U.S. has among the highest proportion of participants in the game. It's on par with European and Latin American countries.
U.S. culture has the most pro sports and produces the most athletes, so that might have something to do with its standing.
Soccer vs. Football
Do more people call the game football or soccer? That all depends on where you live.
Most of the English-speaking world calls it football, as proven by the blue coloring on this map. But North America and Australia refer to it as soccer since each has its own alternate football.
Some countries call it both.
The Original World Cup
Uruguay hosted FIFA's first World Cup in 1930.
The host nation topped its southern neighbor Argentina 4-2 in the final to claim the first of its two World Cup titles.
Somehow, the United States finished third, its best showing to date.
2004 Olympics Men’s Basketball Finish
It’s easy to forget that the world caught the United States in basketball during the mid-2000s, which is what prompted the 2008 Redeem Team at the Beijing Olympics.
In 2002, the U.S. finished sixth at the World Championships then took home bronze at the 2004 Athens Games after a shocking loss to Argentina in the semifinals.
Argentina went on to win its first gold medal.
1896 Olympics Games by Country
Countries have been striving to go faster, higher and stronger for over 120 years in official Olympics sports competitions.
Only 14 nations participated in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, and they were heavily concentrated in Europe.
The United States, Australia and Chile were the only other nations to send natives to the original Olympics.
Winter Olympics Host Cities
Welcome to the Winter Olympics.
After the modern Olympics successfully rolled out in 1896, the Winter Games were unveiled in 1924, starting in Chamonix, France.
The countries colored in blue have hosted the Winter Olympics on multiple occasions. The countries in green, including Russia, have only hosted them once.
Summer and Winter Olympics Host Cities
This map color codes each nation by the number of times it hosted the Summer and Winter Olympics Games, with green nations having hosted each.
European cities have hosted the most games, including the original games in Athens in 1896. London is the only three-time host, and Athens, Paris, Los Angeles, Innsbruck, Austria, Lake Placid, New York and St. Moritz, Switzerland are the only other cities to host twice.
Tokyo (2021), Beijing (2022) and Cortina d’Ampezzo (2026) will join the two-time host list. And Paris (2024) and Los Angeles (2028) will become three-time hosts in the next decade.
Active Canadian Football League Cities
The Canadian Football League has nine teams in nine Canadian cities. BC Lions (Vancouver, British Columbia), Calgary Stampeders (Calgary, Alberta), Edmonton Football Team (Edmonton, Alberta), Saskatchewan Roughriders (Regina, Saskatchewan), Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Hamilton, Ontario), Montreal Alouettes (Montreal, Quebec), Ottawa Redblacks (Ottawa, Ontario) and Toronto Argonauts (Toronto, Ontario).
There are five teams in the West Division and four in the East.
The winner of each division meets each November in the annual Grey Cup.
Defunct CFL Teams
As hard as it may be to believe, the CFL spent three years courting United States teams with varying success.
Baltimore had the best luck, with the ulterior motive of trying to lure an NFL team.
The CFL ditched its U.S. expansion, and the five teams it had there, in 1995.
You might remember NFL Europe, the developmental league where football players could get better while playing for one of the nine teams in European cities between 1998 and 2007.
The World League of American Football is where it all started with 10 teams. Founded in 1989, the WLAF combined seven teams from the U.S. and three from Europe for spring football for two seasons in 1991 and 1992. This map shows the teams that participated in that.
North American West: Birmingham Fire, Sacramento Surge, San Antonio Riders
North American East: Montreal Machine, New York/New Jersey Knights, Orlando Thunder, Raleigh–Durham Skyhawks (replaced by Ohio Glory in 1992)
European: Barcelona Dragons, Frankfurt Galaxy, London Monarchs
In 1998, the league was rebranded as NFL Europe League, or NFL Europe. The name changed to NFL Europa in 2007, the same year the league ended.
Countries Where Australian Rules Football Is Played
The sport may be unique to Down Under, but Australian Rules Football does get played in other parts of the world.
In blue is the host nation, Australia, which is the lone nation to host a pro league.
The other colored nations participate in the sport, with the deeper shades competing at a high level.
Division I Lacrosse Programs
Club lacrosse is huge in the West, but many programs are hesitant to make the leap to Division I due to the lack of competition and high level of programs in the East.
As such, only four programs (Utah, Denver, Air Force and Marquette) exist west of the Eastern Time Zone.
Lacrosse is mostly confined to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, with programs like Duke and North Carolina succeeding with stalwart players from those regions.
Formula One Races by Country
Formula One racing dates back to 1906, when the French Grand Prix was held, the first international event to be labeled a grand prix, or auto race that takes place over three days (usually Friday to Sunday).
This map shows how far Formula One has come. Countries in green hosted Formula One races in 2019, with each individual host city dictated by a black dot on the map. White dots on the map indicate cities that previously hosted a Grand Prix race.
Countries colored light gray previously hosted races, and countries in dark gray have never hosted an F1 race.
U.S. Greyhound Racing
Dog racing has been around for over 100 years in the United States. The first recognized commercial greyhound racetrack in the United States was built in Emeryville, California, and as of 2018, nearly half the states in the union allowed people to wager on live dog racing.
Idaho does not allow live racing in its states, but gamblers interested in wagering on races in other states may do so. Florida voted to ban greyhound racing, and live operations will be shut down by the end of 2020. So only five states will have live dog racing.
At its peak, greyhound racing was legal in 18 states.
Field Hockey Around the World
More than 3 million people play field hockey worldwide, making it one of the top 20 most popular sports in the world.
This map shows the countries that belong to the International Field Hockey Federation.
In the United States, women are the most common field hockey participants, but men also participate in the sport in other parts of the world.
Rugby Union Members
Are you ready to rumble on the rugby field, also known as a pitch or paddock? Then, you'll need to be rock solid. And only those who believe will be champions.
These are some of the famous mottos in rugby, which is a popular alternative to American football around the world. This map spotlights the nations that play the game.
Though Australia and New Zealand traditionally have the best teams, rugby also is popular in parts of Africa, Europe and North America.