Four major league sports in the U.S.
When betting on sports in the USA, you can always find a game to bet on if you look at the major leagues. The four major leagues cover the four most popular sports played in North America – baseball, basketball, football, and hockey – and their prominence attracts bettors from all across the world.
There’s no shortage of oddsmakers like Fanduel, who offer betting lines on all of these industries, so bettors can shop around and find the most favorable odds. Their high profile also means they have widespread media coverage, so savvy bettors can always find more information to make their bets more informed.
Here we’ve provided a rundown of the four major leagues. We’ve covered how they got started and what they look like today and the betting scenes that have developed around them.
Major League Baseball
The MLB got its start in the war camps of the American Civil War, where soldiers exported the New York way of playing the game across much of the eastern states. This led to the game becoming the national standard and the founding of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). Games were mostly amateur until 1869 when the Cincinnati Red Stockings formed. The first game considered to be an MLB game was in 1876.
From there, the MLB has solidified itself as a staple of American sports alongside their minor league equivalent. Baseball is one of the oldest sports in the country and, with its success in the 1920s and the fact that many baseball players left the sport to fight in WW2, it has become known as a patriotic pastime.
30 teams play in Major League Baseball, split between the National League and the American League.
National Basketball Association
The NBA has a clearer establishment than the MLB, being founded in 1946 in New York City as the Basketball Association of America. The BAA changed its name to the NBA three years later in 1949, after which they slowly consolidated many of the classic teams that we know today through the 50s, such as the Knicks, the Lakers, and the Celtics, to name a few. During the 60s and the 70s, they had to compete with the American Basketball Association, but it’s clear which league came out on top.
Since then, many superstars have emerged from the NBA, which consists of 29 American teams and 1 Canadian team. In the 80s, figures like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan became household names in many parts of the US, with stars like Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, and the late Kobe Bryant following in the 2000s.
Like the MLB, the NBA enjoys worldwide fame and betting action. There are many sites and social media followings, all of which keep tabs on the industry and crunch numbers so that bettors can make more informed bets.
National Football League
Now for the most popular and most profitable league in American history, the NFL. Today, the NFL has 32 teams divided between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. This similar arrangement to the MLB is because the league was formed under different names in the 1920s. The two NFL merged with the AFL in 1970, but they held a game in 1967 to determine the best teams of both leagues. This was the Super Bowl, which is now an event that pulls in millions of viewers every year.
With all that attention comes a lot of betting action. The NFL’s stance on betting has been historically frosty. Throughout the 60s, several acts were passed to restrict betting and other forms of gambling. Legal bookmakers were smothered by taxes placed on sports betting until 1974 when Congress was convinced to lower it. It was lowered again in the 90s and led to the sports betting environment we have today.
National Hockey League
The fourth great American league is the NHL, which manages ice hockey across 25 teams in America and 7 in Canada. The NHL is more than a national entity, it’s the foremost professional ice hockey league in the world, so it gets attention from every ice hockey industry no matter where they are on the globe. It was formed in 1917 with four teams, which were all Canadian, and it took until 1924 for the US to get involved. The six teams tripled by 1974 and hit 21 in 79, though they are still growing. The 32nd hockey team was added to the NHL this year, in 2021.