A detailed list of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada

A detailed list of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada

The major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada are the most lucrative for both countries. Not only are these leagues referred to as the Big Four but also as the richest in the world. Read on to discover these major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.

Most popular sports leagues in America
A detailed list of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. Photo: Leslie Banks (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

The major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada include the National Football League, NFL, National Basketball Association, NBA, Major Baseball League, MLB, and National Hockey League, NHL. In this article, you will find more details about these leagues.

Major professional sports leagues

These leagues are famous with huge fan bases globally, and players are often regarded as icons. According to various online sources, the most popular sports leagues in America are:

The Major League Baseball

Being the oldest in the United States of America, it was founded in 1876 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The sport has thirty teams, 15 National League and 15 American League clubs.

It has the longest season consisting of 162 games, compared to all other American major leagues. After the regular season, the top clubs compete in the playoffs, and eight teams, four from each league, advance.

In the long run, the American and National League champions compete in the world series, and the season's winner is determined from the results.

The National Football League

Professional sports leagues in the America by revenue
NFL players battling it out during a game. Photo: Kevin C Cox
Source: Getty Images

Founded in 1920, it is the most famous professional sports league in the United States of America. It has 32 teams, split between the NFC and the AFC. Each of these teams competes to bag the Super Bowl, considered the world's biggest sporting event.

The two conference teams are each categorized into four divisions, and a winner from each division advances to the playoffs in addition to the two wild card spots for non-division winners.

The playoffs have four rounds, and the Super Bowl comes last. Two conference champions compete against each other, and the winner becomes the champion.

The National Basketball Association

The NBA was founded in 1946 and had 30 teams divided into two conferences of 15 clubs. In a season, each team is expected to play 82 games.

The 15 clubs in each conference are further divided into three groups, and each conference produces eight teams that head to the playoffs. The playoffs consist of a best-of-seven-game series. The matches are played until one team from each conference remains.

In the finals, winners play against each other in a best-of-seven series. The winning team then enters the finals to compete for the NBA trophy.

Sports leagues in Canada
Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of the game at Fiserv Forum on 29 January 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: Stacy Revere
Source: Getty Images

The National Hockey League

The NHL was founded in 1917, thus becoming the second oldest major professional sports league in North America. It consists of 31 clubs divided into two conferences and four playing divisions.

The top three teams from each conference's divisions and the two wild card clubs proceed to the playoffs. These teams compete against each other to win the Stanley Cup.

The Major League Soccer

MLS is a professional soccer league founded in 1993 and is authorised by the United States Soccer Federation. After celebrating its 25th season in 2020, 26 Canada and the United States clubs took part in the league.

Its regular season starts in late February to early October, and each team plays two matches against every club.

The Canadian Football League

The CFL was founded in 1958, comprising nine teams from nine American cities. The league has a 21-week regular season comprising 18 games that were part of the 2019 season. The winning teams then advanced to compete for the Grey Cup in November.

Professional sports leagues in Canada
Carlos Vela of Los Angeles FC defends the ball during the MLS Cup Final game against Philadelphia Union at Banc of California Stadium on 5 November 2022 in LA, California. Photo: Rob Ericson
Source: Getty Images

Which of America's Big Four sports leagues is the oldest?

Major League Baseball is the oldest of the major professional leagues in North America. It is made up of the National and the American Leagues, which were founded in 1876 and 1901, respectively.

Professional sports leagues in America by revenue

These sports make a huge annual income, mostly from sponsorships, ticket sales, television deals, and media rights. According to an in-depth analysis, here are the Big Four ranked in terms of revenue generated annually.

National Football League

The NFL ranks as number 1 in the richest sports leagues worldwide by revenue, earning $16 billion in 2018. The 32 teams in the leagues share the income as per the CBA between the owners and players. Fifty-two percent goes to the owners, while the rest goes to the players.

The Major League Baseball

The MLB ranks second worldwide by revenue. In 2019, it earned over $10.7 billion, making it history's most successful and profitable league. The bulk of its revenue is from sponsorship and television deals, media rights, and ticket sales.

Which of America's Big Four sports leagues is the oldest
Latavius Murray carries the ball into the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown during their game against the Los Angeles Chargers on 8 January 2023, in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Dustin Bradford
Source: Getty Images

The revenues are expected to rise in the coming years when more TV deals kick in. Furthermore, the MLB is the top sports league in the world in attendance, with over 69 million people annually.

The National Basketball Association

The NBA generated approximately $8.8 billion in annual revenue in 2019. It is one of the fastest growing in the world, comprising 30 teams, 29 in the United States of America and 1 in Canada, with an annual increase of up to 14 percent in revenues.

Most of the income is earned through lucrative TV deals, merchandising, sponsorships, and ticket sales. Due to the sport's popularity with the younger generation, it has a higher revenue growth, and the marketability of its players is top-notch, rivaling only soccer.

The National Hockey League

The NHL ranks fourth in the United States and Canada and sixth worldwide. In 2019, it generated approximately $5.09 billion, thus becoming one of the most profitable and valuable sports leagues.

Being one of North America's four major sports leagues, it records an annual attendance of over 21 million people.

What is the number 1 sport in Canada?

Professional sports leagues in Canada
Nick Jensen of the Washington Capitals skates with the puck against Pierre Engvall of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotia-bank Arena on 29 January 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Source: Getty Images

Ice hockey is the number one sport in Canada. Due to its popularity in the country, it has been named the official national sport. Canadian ice hockey is under the NHL, established in both the United States and Canada.

What is the most-watched sports league in the USA?

The NHL is the most-watched and loved professional sports league in the United States of America. It has over 112 million TV viewership, with more than 9 million active participants.

Which is more popular, NFL or MLB?

Regarding broadcast and viewership, NFL is the most popular compared to MLB. The major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, such as the NFL and NBA, have grown tremendously in recent decades. As of 2023, they are recognized internationally, with huge fan bases across the globe.

READ ALSO: Who are the top 10 best college basketball teams?

Sportsbrief has recently compiled the top 10 best basketball teams of all time. Ranking among the most famous sports worldwide, basketball has significantly amassed huge fan bases everywhere.

College basketball in the USA has recently risen in popularity, producing the best players in the basketball arena. Click on the link above to find out more about the best college basketball teams.

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Source: Sports Brief News