Soccer is one of the most universally popular sports in the world. No matter which country you go to, you’ll find a large contingent of people who love watching players run around a field and kick a ball.
One of the most common beliefs regarding soccer is that it’s the most popular sport in every country in the world. However, this is not true.
While soccer does have fans in all countries, there are quite a few places in which other sports are more popular than it. In this article will mention more than 10 of those countries …
These are 15 countries in which soccer is not the most popular sport.
- Japan: Baseball
Starting off the list is Japan, where baseball is considerably more popular than soccer.
This might come as a surprise to some. After all, Japan’s national soccer team has made it to the round of 16 in the FIFA World Cup several times since 2002 ‒ any country that consistently makes it that far into the world’s most prestigious soccer tournament must have a large national fanbase.
Well, soccer is certainly popular in Japan. It’s just not as popular as baseball, which was first introduced to the Japanese people all the way back in 1872. Since then, a wildly popular professional league has emerged, and a robust high school league has formed to support it.
- Canada: Ice hockey
Of all the countries on this list, Canada is probably one of the least surprising. The cold weather and the prevalence of ice in Canada made it easy for ice hockey to rise to the top of Canada’s sports hierarchy.
While ice hockey has its origin in the non-ice version developed in the United Kingdom, the Canadians adapted that to their icy environment and basically created the sport themselves back in the 1800s. Ever since then, Canadians have preferred pucks and skates to balls and goals.
- Finland: Ice hockey
Finland is another country with a climate that lends itself to ice hockey. The first ice hockey league was established in the 1920s, and the sport has grown to reach Finland’s number one spot in terms of both game attendance and TV viewership.
The sport is so popular that, despite Finland’s relatively small population, The Finnish national team is one of the few teams with the ability to challenge the American, Canadian, and Russian teams on the international stage.
- New Zealand: Rugby
If you’ve heard anything about New Zealand, it probably involves either The Lord of the Rings (the movies were filmed in New Zealand) or rugby ‒ which is the most popular sport in New Zealand by a large margin.
Historians have traced the origins of the game’s prevalence in New Zealand all the way to the early 1900s, which is when the first professional league was formed. While soccer definitely has a fervent fanbase in New Zealand, rugby is so integrated into the national culture that it’s unlikely any sport will overtake rugby’s dominance in New Zealand.
- United States: American Football
It’s no secret that Americans prefer quite a few sports over soccer. Baseball, basketball, and American football all have a significantly larger market share than soccer does.
Of these three, American football is the most popular sport in the United States. National Football League (NFL) games have the highest average attendance of any professional sports league on the planet, and the American football championship ‒ the Super Bowl ‒ is one of the most-watched sporting events in the world.
Despite its relative lack of popularity, soccer does have a solid foothold in the United States. Major League Soccer (MLS) has the third-highest average game attendance numbers of all U.S. sports. Soccer is also wildly popular in high school leagues, and most U.S. colleges have both recreational and competitive soccer teams that students can join.
- Australia: Cricket
The Australians ‒ or Aussies, as they prefer to be called ‒ are known for a number of sports. Cricket, rugby, Australian rules football, and soccer are all popular in the land down under. However, cricket takes the top spot over these other options in terms of overall popularity.
While cricket’s origins are uncertain, most believe it developed in southeast England and spread globally as the British Empire established a system of colonies around the world. This is why most countries in which cricket is popular are former British colonies. India, the West Indies, and southern Africa are all places in which cricket is followed closely.
Soccer in Australia is still quite popular though. They have a number of professional and semi-professional leagues, including the A-League, the National Premier Leagues, and the National Youth League. The national team has also had moderate success in the FIFA World Cup, breaking into the knockout rounds numerous times in recent history.
- Mongolia: Wrestling
Mongolia is pretty unique on this list ‒ they are one of the only countries in which wrestling is the most popular sport. Its popularity comes directly from Mongolian history and culture. Mongol culture is one of the oldest in existence, and the 7000-year-old unbroken tradition of Mongol wrestling highlights that.
The highlight of Mongol wrestling comes during an annual event called the Three Manly Games of Naadam. Taking place over three days in the middle of the summer, this festival showcases the three sports most central to Mongol culture: archery, horseback riding, and wrestling. Hundreds of wrestlers from all around the country show up to compete in this yearly tournament, and winning it is considered one of the greatest honors in Mongol society.
- The Philippines: Basketball
This may come as a surprise, but basketball tops soccer ‒ and a number of other sports ‒ as the most popular sport in the Philippines.
The country’s primary focus is on the men’s leagues, with numerous professional, semi-professional, collegiate, and amateur leagues in existence around the country. The two Professional leagues ‒ the Philippine Basketball Association and the ASEAN Basketball League ‒ are the most-watched leagues in the country.
Basketball came to the Philippines during the American colonial period, when American teachers taught the sport to their students. It began exploding in popularity in the early 1900s, when men’s and women’s leagues began to form, and competition began to grow.
- Bhutan: Archery
Bhutan is another oddity in this list, as it’s the only country in which archery is more popular than soccer. It’s actually Bhutan’s national sport, which means that even the government sees it as more important than soccer.
Similar to how nearly every town in the United Kingdom has a soccer field, every village in Bhutan has a field for archery. It’s that popular.
- Guyana: Cricket
Guyana is another country in which cricket is more popular than soccer. Although the population is rather small (less than 1 million people), Guyana has still hosted international cricket matches in a 15,000 capacity stadium built specifically for the Cricket World Cup
- Lithuania: Basketball
Basketball edges out soccer as the most popular sport in Lithuania. Although their population numbers about 3 million, the Lithuanians’ love for basketball has made them a consistent contender in European and international competitions.
- Austria: Skiing
The large number of snowy mountains that dot Austria’s beautiful countryside have made alpine skiing the most popular sport in the country. While soccer is also popular in Austria, the consistently cold weather encourages Austrians to take up sports that require you to bundle up in coats, boots, and snow pants.
- Pakistan: Cricket
Pakistan is yet another country influenced by the British expansion of cricket. Edging out other sports like soccer, field hockey, and polo, Pakistan’s deep love of cricket has carried their national team to multiple international victories.
- Tasmania: Australian rules football
Tasmania’s close proximity to Australia has inevitably led to some cultural integration. The most obvious example of this is the wild popularity of Australian rules football, which is a contact sport played on a modified cricket field.
- Iceland: Handball
Rounding out this list is Iceland, a country that prefers the indoor sport of handball to the outdoor sport of soccer. This is partially due to tradition, though the cold Icelandic weather almost certainly plays a role.
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