The four major professional sports leagues in the United States (US) and Canada, known as the "Big Four", are the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), and National Hockey League (NHL). Additionally, a fifth professional sport league, Major League Soccer (MLS), is also gaining popularity. The Big Four sports were developed in the US and Canada, but have grown to become popular internationally, with the exception of American football. The Big Four professional sports leagues are also now considered to be part of popular American culture, and top players are considered national icons. Each league has between 30 and 32 teams from cities across the United States, and in all leagues except the NFL, Canada. These teams can represent a city or state, and have large local and regional fanbases. However, not all US states contain a professional sports team. In fact, twenty-four states are not represented by a professional team in any of the leagues, including the MLS.
Examples of US States Without Professional Sports Teams
Alabama is among the more populous US states without a team in any of the five major professional sports leagues. However, sports are popular in the state, especially at the college level. For example, Auburn University and the University of Alabama have one of the greatest rivalries in the history of college football. Despite ranking as the 24th most populous US state, the largest city in Alabama, which is Birmingham, has an estimated population of only 209,880. Additionally, Birmingham's metropolitan area is the 49th most populous in the country, and therefore the lack of large urban centres helps to explain the absence of a professional sports team in Alabama.
Alaska and Hawaii
As the only two non-contiguous US states, it is not surprising that Alaska and Hawaii are not represented in any of the major professional sports leagues. Alaska and Hawaii, which are located in the extreme northwest part of North America and the Pacific Ocean, respectively, are geographically removed from other teams, making team travel impractical. Additionally, the population distribution of Alaska makes it challenging to fund stadiums, and consistent ticket sales is highly unlikely. Instead, residents of Alaska and Hawaii support other teams. For example, most Alaskan football fans support the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks.
Virginia does not have a professional sports team despite being the 12th most populous US state, with an estimated population of 8.5 million. Interestingly, the Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Nationals (MLB), and Washington Redskins (NFL) have their headquarters and training facilities in Virginia, but play their home matches in Washington, D.C.
Although Kentucky does not have a professional sports team, the state contains numerous competitive college sports teams. For example, the University of Louisville ranks among the top teams in college basketball.
US States with the Most Professional Sports Teams
Teams in the Big Four professional sports leagues are located across the country, but not equally distributed. For example, some states have numerous professional teams, while others do not have a single team. California is represented by 16 Big Four teams and 3 MLS teams, while Florida is represented by 9 Big Four teams and 1 MLS team, although it may gain a second MLS team in 2020. New York has 10 Big Four teams, but the New York Jets and New York Giants actually play their games in the state of New Jersey. New York City FC and New York Red Bulls represent the state in the MLS, although the latter team plays home games in New Jersey. Other states with numerous teams include Texas (8), Pennsylvania (7), Ohio (6), and Illinois (5).