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Major Professional Sports Leagues: The US & Canada

Sports Leagues

Professional Sports leagues are the most lucrative and entertaining industry globally. By 2031, the global sports industry will be worth $350+ billion, as reported by

The US and Canada’s top professional sports leagues are National Football League (NFL), Major Baseball League (MLB), National Basketball League (NBA), and National Hockey League (NHL). Major League Soccer (MLS) and Canadian Football League (CFL) are two other leagues.

The global fan bases for these sports leagues are typically huge. Each of these leagues had an average of 15,000 spectators per game in 2018, which led to a huge rise in betting on sports games.

Let’s learn more about these leagues.

The Major League Baseball (MLB)

This is the oldest sports league in the US. The number of teams in Major League Baseball is 30. The National League has 15 teams, whereas the American League has 15 clubs, totaling 30 teams.

The longest American major sports season is the MLB, which consists of 162 games. The top clubs compete in the playoffs after the normal MLB seasons. Eight teams total, with four coming from each league, advance to the playoffs. In the end, the AL and NL champions compete in the World Series. As a result, the season’s winner is decided.

MLB is the second-richest professional sports league in terms of revenue after the NFL. Major League Baseball generated over $10.7 billion in revenue in 2019.

The National Football League (NFL)

The NFL is the most famous pro sports league in America. It was founded in 1920. It comprises 32 teams/franchises split between the NFC and AFC that compete annually to win the Super Bowl, the biggest yearly sporting event in the world.

Sixteen teams from each conference are then divided into four divisions of four teams each. In addition to the two wild card spots for non-division winners, each division winner also advances to the playoffs. There are four rounds in the playoffs. In the last round-the Super Bowl pits the league champion against the winners of the two conference championship games.

In terms of cash inflow, the NFL is the richest sports league. The NFL earned $16 billion in 2018, making it the most lucrative pro sports league.

The National Basketball Association (NBA)

The NBA is an American league that was established in 1946. It consists of two different conferences of 15 clubs, with 30 teams total. There are 82 games played per team.

Each conference has three additional divisions with these 15 clubs. Each conference sends a total of eight teams to the playoffs. Each playoff meeting consists of a best-of-seven-game series. These matches go on until just one team from each conference is left.  The two victors then face off in the NBA finals, a best-of-seven series. Then, the winning teams enter the NBA finals to compete for the trophy.

The National Hockey League (NHL)

The NHL was established in 1917, making it North America’s second-oldest significant sports league.

There are 31 clubs in the NHL, divided into two conferences and four playing divisions. The playoffs are open to the top three teams from the conference’s divisions. Two additional wild card clubs also compete in the playoffs. To win the Stanley Cup, these clubs compete against one another.

The NHL is the fifth-richest professional sports league in the United States. NHL made $5.09 billion in total income during the 2018–19 season.

The Major League Soccer (MLS)

The MLS is a professional soccer league established in 1993. In 2020, when it marked its 25th Season, 26 clubs from across North America participated in the league.

The MLS regular season runs from late February through early October. Each competing team plays twice against other teams in their conference.

Canadian Football League

The Canadian Football League (CFL) is a professional sports league established in 1958. It comprises nine teams dispersed over nine significant American cities.

A 21-week regular season featured 18 games as part of the 2019 CFL season. Six CFL teams compete in divisional playoffs that last for 3 weeks after the regular season to advance to the Grey Cup title game in November.


The major Canadian and American professional sports leagues mentioned above are expanding internationally and attracting many fans from other countries.

All six professional sports leagues receive extensive media coverage and have a favorable economic and sporting influence on the world.

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