Nate Silvers Tackles North America Sports League Popularity.. Gets Interesting Results

In a follow-up its follow-up to, “The Distribution of Fandom in Pro Leagues,” that ranked the popularity of teams within the top four American leagues and the English Prem, the stat-loving, data geeks at FiveThirtyEight attempt to determine the top sports leagues in America.

The presumed wisdom of Sports in North America is the Big Four Sport [NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL] rule all and everything else in minor league.

For reference, you will remember:

“Jason Collins [playing for the NBA’S New Jersey Nets] becomes the first openly gay [male] athlete to play in a major sport in America,”

followed quickly by,

“Dudes, what about Robbie Rogers?  He did it way before Jason Collins”

“I said MAJOR sport, MLS and soccer are not major in America,”

“WTF? Of course it is”

“No, it’s not, you delusional hipsters”

drama of a couple of weeks ago..
This sort of thing causes drama, so stats wunderkind and sports loving madman Nate Silver actually looked into the issue under the tag, “a Popularity Contest,” in the Datalab section of his website. “The ‘Big Five’ in North American Pro Sports,”   analyzes google’s search traffic to determine what is generating the most search interest and there by assuming it is the most popular.

MLS has a better argument [the the WNBA]. Its most popular teams, the LA Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders, generate more search traffic than the Blue Jackets [the Big Four’s least popular team]. The Galaxy and Sounders also earn about as much search traffic as the least popular NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks.


Source: Google Trends


Ultimately, Silvers dismisses both MLS and Canadian Football League , remember NORTH AMERICAN, in favor of the Mexican Liga MX.

In fact, Mexico’s top professional soccer league, Liga MX, is comparable to the NHL in terms of global popularity. Liga MX’s most popular team on Google, C.D. Guadalajara, produces about as much search traffic as the Canadiens, the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Bulls.




Source: Google Trends

Silver creates comprehensive list of each team in the top seven leagues in North America [NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Liga MX, MLS and CFL] of which the bottom 11 teams are all MLS, and 13 of the bottom 16 are.   MLS is clearly growing but by Silver rather objective approach, it is not yet hit the next level as a group..  Some teams have crossed over but not enough



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