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· Golf · Disc Golf · Boxing · Mixed martial arts – Developed in the 1990s, MMA has achieved popularity in the 21st century. Many companies promote MMA cards, with the U.S.-based UFC the most dominant. · Wrestling – Though not a popular sport on a national level, high school wrestling is one of the most popular participatory sports for young men in the U.S. Professional wrestling, in contrast, enjoys widespread popularity as a spectator sport (particularly during the 1990s) despite being widely known to be a scripted and choreographed product wholly unrelated to the amateur sport. · Racquetball · Rodeo – Bull riding, a subset of the rodeo, enjoys popularity as a standalone sport, especially the pro competition, Professional Bull Riders.   American football   American football, known within the U.S. simply as football, has the most participants of any sport at both high school[12] and college levels. The NFL is the preeminent professional football league in the United States. The NFL has 32 franchises divided into two conferences. After a 16-game regular season, each conference sends six teams to the NFL Playoffs, which eventually culminate in the league's championship game, the Super Bowl. Millions watch college football throughout the fall months, and some communities, particularly in rural areas, place great emphasis on their local high school football teams. The popularity of college and high school football in areas such as the Southern United States (Southeastern Conference) and the Great Plains (Big 12 Conference and Big Ten Conference) stems largely from the fact that these areas historically generally did not possess markets large enough for a professional team.[14] Nonetheless, college football has a rich history in the United States, predating the NFL by decades, and fans and alumni are generally very passionate about their teams.   Tom Brady against the Washington Redskinson August 28, 2009. During football season in the fall, fans have the opportunity to watch high school games on Fridays and Saturdays, college football on Saturdays, and NFL games on Sundays, the usual playing day of the professional teams. However, some colleges play games on Tuesday (the Mid-American Conference in particular played a national game Tuesday nights through the 2013 season) and Wednesday nights, while the NFL offers weekly games on Monday(since 1970) and Thursday (since 2006). As recently as 2013, one could find a nationally televised professional or college game on television any night between Labor Day and Thanksgiving weekend (as of 2014, the MAC's Tuesday night games now only occur in November, to accommodate baseball season). Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest annual sporting event held in the United States. The Super Bowl itself is always among the highest-rated programs off all-time in the Nielsen ratings. Notable NFL players include Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Dick Butkus, Joe Greene, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas,Walter Payton, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith, and Ray Lewis. Notable current NFL players include Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Adrian Peterson. Nationwide, the NFL obtains the highest television ratings among major sports. This situation began in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the establishment of theSuper Bowl and merger of the existing professional leagues, the old NFL and the American Football League, into one NFL league. Since then, watching NFL games on television on Sunday afternoons has become a common routine for many Americans during the football season. Among the NFL teams which have become practically identified with their host cities are the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins. College football (i.e. NCAA)is popular in the southeast, where there are fewer major professional sports teams. In many of these areas, college football is the most avidly followed sport, with the Saturday college games being the biggest event of the week. Indoor American football, a form of football played in indoor arenas, has several professional and semi-professional leagues. The Arena Football League, which plays by the formerly proprietary code of arena football, was active from 1987 to 2008 and folded in 2009, but several teams from the AFL and its former minor league, af2, relaunched the league in 2010. Most other extant indoor leagues date to the mid-2000s (decade) and are regional in nature. Baseball   Fenway Park in Boston is the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball. Baseball and a variant, softball, are popular participatory sports in the U.S. The highest level of baseball in the U.S. isMajor League Baseball. The World Series of Major League Baseball is the culmination of the sport's postseason each October. It is played between the winner of each of the two leagues, the American League and the National League, and the winner is determined through a best-of-seven playoff.   Alex Rodriguez batting in 2007 Notable American baseball players in history include Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb,Cy Young, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan,Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, and Jackie Robinson, who was instrumental in dissolving the color line and allowing African-Americans into the major leagues. The more noted players of today include Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. Baseball is popular in certain East Asian countries—Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan—and Latin American countries or territories such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Venezuela. Among the Latin American stars of the past who became legends in the major leagues were Roberto Clemente and Fernando Valenzuela. The most successful major league player from Asia is Ichiro Suzuki. As baseball developed over 150 years ago in the northeast, it has been played and followed in this region longer than in others. The city of New York is for many sports fans synonymous with the New York Yankees and their logo. The team is noted as having been the team of many of the all-time greats in the history of the game, and for having won more titles than any other US major professional sports franchise. The city was also host to two other highly popular baseball teams in the National League, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, before their transfer to California beginning with the 1958 season. The Yankees' chief rivals, theBoston Red Sox, also enjoy a huge following in Boston and throughout New England. The fierce National League rivalry between the former Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants was transferred to the West Coast when the teams became the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, and California has always been among the US states which have supplied the most players in the major leagues. Chicago sports fans also avidly follow the Chicago Cubs and to a lesser extent the Chicago White Sox despite the comparative lack of success for the teams, with Chicago Cub fans being known throughout the country for their passionate loyalty to the team despite their not having won a championship since 1908. Basketball Of those Americans citing their favorite sport, basketball is ranked second (counting amateur levels) behind football. However, in regards to professional sports the NBA is ranked third in popularity. More Americans play basketball than any other team sport, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, with over 26 million Americans playing basketball. Basketball was invented in 1891 by physical education teacher James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts.   Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson 1997 The National Basketball Association, more popularly known as the NBA, is the world's premier men's professional basketball league and one of the major professional sports leagues of North America. It contains 30 teams (29 teams in the U.S. and 1 in Canada) that play an 82-game season from October to June. After the regular season, eight teams from each conference compete in the playoffs for the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. The American Basketball Association, active from 1967 until 1976, when it merged with the NBA, was the last major competitor of the NBA.   U.S. men's national basketball team at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Since the 1992 Summer Olympics, NBA players have represented the United States in international competition and won several important tournaments. The Dream Teamwas the unofficial nickname of the United States men's basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. Basketball at both the college and high school levels is popular throughout the country. Every March, a 68-team, six-round, single-elimination tournament (commonly calledMarch Madness) determines the national champions of NCAA Division I men's college basketball. Most U.S. states also crown state champions among their high schools. Many high school basketball teams have intense local followings, especially in the Midwest and Upper South. Indiana has 10 of the 12 largest high school gyms in the United States, and is famous for its basketball passion, known as Hoosier Hysteria. Notable NBA players in history include Wilt Chamberlain (4 time MVP), Bill Russell (5 time MVP), Bob Pettit (11 time all NBA team), Bob Cousy (12 time all NBA team),Walt Frazier, Jerry West, (12 time all NBA team), Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6 time MVP), Magic Johnson (3 time MVP), Larry Bird (3 time MVP), Michael Jordan (6 time finals MVP), John Stockton (#1 in career assists and steals), Karl Malone (14 time all NBA team), Shaquille O'Neal (3 time finals MVP) and Jason Kidd(#2 in career assists and steals). Notable players in the NBA today include Kobe Bryant (NBA's fourth all-time leading scorer), LeBron James (4 MVP awards), Tim Duncan (14-time NBA all-star), Dwayne Wade (10 time all-star), Kevin Durant (4 NBA scoring titles), and Chris Paul (7 time all-star). Ever since the 1990s, an increasing number of players born outside the United States have signed with NBA teams, sparking league interest in different parts of the world. Among the notable foreign-born players in the NBA today are two-time MVP Steve Nash (a South Africa-born Canadian), 2007 Finals MVP Tony Parker(France), and 11 time all-star Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), the first European to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. Aside from its huge popularity as a high school and college sport in Indiana and Kentucky, basketball may also be the most popular professional sport in cities during particular periods when the local NBA team may be enjoying an era of remarkable success, such as in Chicago during the dynasty days of the Chicago Bulls andMichael Jordan during the 1990s, or in Los Angeles ever since the Los Angeles Lakers developed as a perennial powerhouse and title contender since the 1980s, becoming the most popular sports team in the city and the league's glamor team in part due to the many Hollywood stars regularly attending their games. Professional basketball is also primarily followed in cities where there are no other sports teams in the four major professional leagues, such as in the case of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Sacramento Kings, the San Antonio Spurs, or the Portland Trail Blazers. New York City has also had a long historical connection with college and professional basketball, and many basketball legends initially developed their reputations playing in the many playgrounds throughout the city.Madison Square Garden, the home arena of the New York Knicks, is often referred to as the "Mecca of basketball." Ice hockey Ice hockey is another popular sport in the United States. The sport is commonly referred to simply as "hockey." In the U.S. the game is most popular in regions of the country with a cold winter climate, namely the northeast and the upper Midwest. However, since the 1990s, hockey has become increasingly popular in the Sun Belt due in large part to the expansion of the National Hockey League to the southeast and southwest U.S., coupled with the mass relocation of many residents from northern cities with strong hockey support to these Sun Belt locations. The NHL is the major professional hockey league in North America, with 23 U.S.-based teams and 7 Canadian-based teams competing for the Stanley Cup. While NHL stars are still not as readily familiar to the general American public as are stars of the NFL, MLB, and the NBA, average attendance for NHL games in the U.S. has been steadily increasing, and has surpassed average NBA attendance in recent seasons,buoyed in part by theNHL Winter Classic being played in large outdoor stadiums. Other professional leagues in the U.S. include the American Hockey League and the ECHL. Additionally, nine U.S.-based teams compete in the three member leagues of the Canadian Hockey League. USA Hockey is the official governing body for amateur hockey in the U.S. The United States Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Eveleth, Minnesota. One of the nation's greatest ever sporting moments was the "Miracle on Ice", which came during the 1980 Winter Olympics when the U.S. hockey teambeat the Soviet Union 4–3 in the first game of the medal round before going on to beat Finland to claim the gold medal.   The Detroit Red Wingswon their 11th cup in 2008 Historically, the vast majority of NHL players had come from Canada, with a small number of Americans (mostly out of the Minnesota, Michigan and New England areas). In the 1959–60 NHL season, the league was 97 percent Canadian, and only one American-born player, Charlie Burns (who had grown up in Toronto), was a regular in the league.Ten years later, in 1969–70, the situation had changed little; Canadians made up 95 percent of the league, and only five American-born players were regulars. Things began to change for Americans due to NHL expansion in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as the creation of the World Hockey Association in the latter decade. At the time, Eastern Europeans were largely unavailable, and Swedes and Finns, though skilled, were seen by many NHL figures as lacking in physical and mental toughness. This gave Americans their first real opportunity to prove themselves in the league, and by the 1979–80 season, slightly more than 10 percent of NHL players were American-born. The success of European teams, especially the Soviets, against Canadians in the 1970s helped to change stereotypes against European player. During the 1970s and 1980s, the first wave of European players entered the league, mostly from Sweden, Finland, and Eastern Europe. After the fall of communism in Europe, many players from the former Soviet bloc flocked to the NHL. The late 2000s (decade) saw another surge in the number of American-trained players. Today, the majority of NHL players are Canadian, more than 20% are Americans, and virtually all of the remainder are European-trained. (For a more complete discussion, see Origin of NHL players.) Notable NHL players in history include Wayne Gretzky (leading point scorer), Mario Lemieux, Chris Chelios, Guy Lafleur, Steve Yzerman, Gordie Howe (6 time MVP), Nicklas Lidstrom, Bobby Hull, and Bobby Orr. Famous NHL players today include Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, andClaude Giroux. College hockey has a regional following in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States. It is increasingly being used to develop players for the NHL and other professional leagues, much in the way junior ice hockey does in Canada (the U.S. has junior leagues, the United States Hockey League and North American Hockey League, but they are more restricted to protect junior players' college eligibility). The Frozen Four is college hockey's national championship. A variation of ice hockey, played primarily at the recreational level, is pond hockey. Several national tournaments are held in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States each year. Ice hockey competes for "most popular sport" status in areas of the northeast and upper Midwest. NHL teams such as the Detroit Red Wings, thePittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins, and the Philadelphia Flyers are among the most popular sports teams in their home cities. Additionally, American youth hockey development has made great strides in recent decades. While Canada continues to lead the world in youth participation, the U.S. now has more youth hockey players than all other countries, apart from Canada, combined. However, as compared to the other major sports leagues, the sport has comparatively less fan following among minorities in the US, and the majority of players in the NHL are still Canadian or European rather than American. Soccer Soccer has been increasing in popularity in the United States in recent years. Soccer is played by over 13 million people in the U.S., making it the third most played sport in the U.S., more widely played than ice hockey and American football. Most Division 1 colleges field both a men's and women's varsity soccer team . The United States men's national team and women's national team, as well as a number of national youth teams, represent the United States in international soccer competitions and are governed by the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer). The U.S. men's team is one of only seven teams in the world to have qualified for every World Cup since 1990.[19] The U.S. women's team is tied with Germany for most Women's World Cup championships, and is the only team that has never finished worse than third place in a World Cup.[20] Columbus Crew Stadium, MLS' firstsoccer-specific stadium. Major League Soccer is the premier soccer league in the United States. MLS has 19 clubs (16 from the U.S. and 3 from Canada). The 34-game schedule runs from mid-March to late October, with the playoffs and championship in November. Soccer-specific stadiums continue to be built for MLS teams around the country. MLS has a particularly solid following in the Pacific Northwest, where there is a strong rivalry between thePortland Timbers and Seattle Sounders. Other professional men's soccer leagues in the U.S. include the Division II North American Soccer League, and the Division III USL Pro. Brandi Chastain known for her game-winning penalty in the 1999 World Cup final. Many American sports fans, as compared to decades ago, now follow international soccer competitions such as the World Cup. Soccer fans also follow foreign club competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and England's Premier League, and there is growing interest in Major League Soccer, the top domestic professional league. Younger generations of Americans are developing stronger fan appreciation for the sport, due to factors such as the U.S. hosting of the 1994 World Cup and the formation of Major League Soccer, as well as increased U.S. television coverage of soccer competitions. Many immigrants living in the United States, also continue to follow soccer as their favorite team sport. Women's professional soccer in the United States has not seen sustained success. The professional women's leagues—the Women's United Soccer Association and Women's Professional Soccer—each folded after three seasons. U.S. Soccer has since established a new professional league, the National Women's Soccer League, which started in 2013. However, at the lower levels of the salary scale, the NWSL is effectively semi-professional. Many notable international soccer players have played in the U.S. in NASL — including Pelé, Eusébio, George Best, Franz Beckenbauer, and Johan Cruyff — or in MLS — including Roberto Donadoni, Lothar Matthäus, David Beckham, and Thierry Henry. The best American soccer players enter the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame. Particularly notable American male players in the Hall of Fame include Bert Patenaude, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, Tony Meola, Eric Wynalda, and Claudio Reyna. Notable female American players in the Hall of Fame include Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, and Michelle Akers.


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