America’s Best Sports Cities 2020

They’re obnoxious in Boston. They attacked Santa in Philly. They long for a win in Tampa. Sports are returning to North America, and the faithful are already spoiling for a fight. Enter the phrase “Boston fans are . . . ” in Google, and the top three autocomplete suggestions you’ll get are “the worst,” “spoiled”…

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They’re obnoxious in Boston. They attacked Santa in Philly. They long for a win in Tampa. Sports are returning to North America, and the faithful are already spoiling for a fight.

Enter the phrase “Boston fans are . . . ” in Google, and the top three autocomplete suggestions you’ll get are “the worst,” “spoiled” and “trash.” The results below them are peppered with words like “annoying,” “obnoxious” and “racist.” Not exactly the folksy charm Hyundai portrayed in its 2020 Super Bowl homage to the city, but for the Beantown faithful, charm isn’t part of the playbook.

“We’re too distracted by the shiny rings we have to care,” says Mahlon Williams, founder of I Love Boston Sports, the company behind one of the region’s bestselling sports shirts, “New England Vs Everyone.” “We wear the hate as a badge of honor.”

But now there is a reason for Google to update that autocomplete suggestion, to “Boston fans are . . . the best”: The capital city of Red Sox Nation tops Forbes’ inaugural ranking of the best sports cities in North America, outpacing other sports-crazed cities like New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. Our ranking of 20 cities takes into account how many fans are packing their teams’ stands, watching them on TV and following them on social media. We consider only the four major American sports: baseball, football, basketball and hockey. Women’s professional sports, men’s soccer and college sports are not factored into our formula because the data is unavailable.

Professional sports are back—or at least, trying to be—with MLB, the NBA and the NHL all attempting to resume play after shutting down in March, and the NFL still planning to begin its season on time. 

The return, if it holds, will be nothing short of rapturous for fans who for four months have had to make do with the anemic comfort of live-streamed singalongs of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and virtual tailgate parties organized around Super Bowl reruns. News about actual wins and losses might even offer some respite from recent controversies surrounding social justice and fairness, or the latest report from the Washington Post about allegations of rampant sexual harassment within Washington’s NFL organization.

“We need something that we all can cheer for. We need something new we can watch together.”

The only live sports broadcasts of the pandemic—mostly pallid (or revolting) replacements like marble races and spitting contests—could hardly purge the aggressions of Boston’s Red Sox Nation, absorb the vicious temperament of New York City’s dueling tabloid sports pages or quench the drunken ambition displayed in Chicago’s Wrigleyville after the Cubs broke a 108-year drought and won the World Series in 2016. No. 2 on the Forbes list, Philadelphia, still hasn’t lived down Eagles fans’ furious snowball attack on Santa Claus, and the accompanying thunderous boos, a half-century ago. But Philadelphians at least get to bask in that runner-up status without their teams being tainted by cheating scandals.

“What people don’t get is that we didn’t boo Santa,” Birds fan Steve Kelley recounted to Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Ronnie Polaneczky in 2008. “We booed a bad Santa. There’s a difference. If it had been a bad Baby Jesus,” one who, say, fell out of his manger, “we would’ve booed him, too.”

The worst place for sports? Not surprisingly, it’s a city with a reputation for its own brand of hospitality to visiting fans from the Northeast. The Tampa Bay area has no NBA team. The Rays play baseball in a domed 1980s relic. The NFL’s Buccaneers are so dismal, they have a section on the team’s Wikipedia page dedicated to their losing streaks. Both teams sit at the bottom of their leagues in attendance. Hockey’s Lightning draw a consistent crowd, but the NHL franchise is still ignored by 75% of the local population.

“I hate the saying ‘I live where you vacation,’ but it’s true,” says Chris Fasick, 41, who runs the largest Tampa meme account. He’s a regular at Bucs and Lightning games who scoffs at critics from places like Boston and Philly. “It’s just jealousy coming from sad Northeasterners because they have to save up all year to come spend a week here.”

The solution: Steal from Boston. The Buccaneers committed $50 million to poach Tom Brady from the Patriots in March and followed it up by luring tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s former teammate and fellow Super Bowl winner, out of retirement to join him. In a gesture of brand bravado, the star quarterback is looking to trademark the names “Tompa Bay” and “Tampa Brady.”

Best Sports Cities Ranking 

#1 Boston

Teams: Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox 

Total Championships: 38

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Red Sox, 1901

Signature Song: “Dirty Water” by The Standells

Billie Weiss / Boston Red Sox / Getty Images

#2 Philadelphia

Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Phillies

Total Championships: 10

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Phillies, 1883

Famous Mascot: Phillie Phanatic

Len Redkoles / NHLI / Getty-Images

#3 San Francisco Bay Area

Teams: Golden State Warriors, Oakland Athletics, Oakland Raiders*, San Francisco 49ers, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Sharks

Total Championships: 30

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Giants (New York), 1883

Unique Eats: Gilroy garlic fries and garden-fresh vegetables at Oracle Park

*Team moves to Las Vegas in 2020.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The San Francisco Chronicle / GettyImages; Focus on Sport / GettyImages

#4 Chicago

Teams: Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox

Total Championships: 27

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Cubs, 1876

Signature Song: “Sirius” by The Allan Parsons Project (The Bulls)

Jamie Squire / Getty Images

#5 Minneapolis

Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Wild

Total Championships: 3

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Twins (Washington), 1901

Famous Rally Cry: Vikings fans’ “Skol” chant

Mark Brown / Getty Images

#6 Dallas

Teams: Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars

Total Championships: 7

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Cowboys, 1960

Iconic Tradition: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Tom Pennington / Getty Images

#7 Detroit

Teams: Detroit Lions, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers

Total Championships: 22

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Red Wings, 1926

Famous Fan Tradition: Octopus toss at Little Caesars Arena

Dave Reginek / NHLI / Getty Images; Abbie Parr- / GettyImages

#8 Denver

Teams: Colorado Avalanche, Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rockies

Total Championships: 5

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Broncos, 1960

Unique Eats: Rocky Mountain oysters at Coors Field

Justin Edmonds / Getty-Images

#9 Miami

Teams: Florida Panthers, Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, Miami Marlins

Total Championships: 7

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Dolphins, 1966

Famous Fan Tradition: Rat toss onto the rink at the Panthers’ BB&T Center

Jonathan Bachman / GettyImages

#10 Los Angeles

Teams: Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Rams

Total Championships: 30

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Dodgers (Brooklyn), 1883

Famous Mascot: The Angels’ Rally Monkey

Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire / GettyImages

#11 New York / New Jersey

Teams: New Jersey Devils, New York Giants, New York Islanders, New York Jets, New York Knicks, New York Mets, Brooklyn Nets, New York Rangers, New York Yankees

Total Championships: 52

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Yankees, 1901

Famous Rally Cry: Rangers fans’ “Potvin sucks” chant

Jim McIsaac / Getty Images (2)

#12 Washington, D.C.

Teams: Washington Capitals, Washington Nationals, Washington Wizards, Washington NFL club*

Total Championships: 8

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Redskins, 1932

Stadium Tradition: National Park’s presidents mascot race

*Team owner Dan Snyder announced the franchise would retire the Redskins name on July 13; a new name is pending.

Michael Reaves / GettyImages

#13 Phoenix

Teams: Arizona Cardinals, Arizona Coyotes, Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns

Total Championships: 3

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Cardinals (Chicago), 1920

Best Stadium Tradition: Pool at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field

Alika Jenner / Getty Images

#14 Pittsburgh

Teams: Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers

Total Championships: 16

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Pirates, 1882

Famous Fan Tradition: Steelers fans’ Terrible Towel waving

Scott Taetsch / Getty Images

#15 Cleveland

Teams: Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians

Total Championships: 11

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Indians, 1894

Unique Eats: Slider Dog with Fruit Loops at the Indians’ Progressive Field

Jonathan Daniel / Getty mages

#16 Houston

Teams: Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Texans

Total Championships: 3

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Astros, 1962

Best Stadium Tradition: Home Run Train at the Astros’ Minute Maid Park

Scott Winters /Icon Sportswire / GettyImages; Jim McIsaac / GettyImages

#17 Toronto

Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors

Total Championships: 16

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Maple Leafs, 1917

Best Stadium Tradition: “OK Blue Jays” seventh-inning stretch

Mark Blinch / NHLI / GettyImages

#18 Atlanta

Teams: Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks

Total Championships: 4

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Braves (Boston), 1871

Famous Rally Cry: Falcons fans’ “Rise Up” chant

Michael Reaves / GettyImages

#19 Charlotte & The Triangle

Teams: Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets

Total Championships: 1

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Hurricanes (Hartford), 1972

Signature Song: The Scorpions“Rock You Like A Hurricane” at the Hurricanes’ PNC Arena

Scott Grau / Icon Sportswire / Getty-Images

#20 Tampa Bay

Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

Total Championships: 2

Oldest Team & Debut Year: Buccaneers, 1976

Famous Fan Tradition: Lightning fans’ Sticks of Fire march

Will Vragovic / Getty-Images


Forbes’ ranking of the best sports cities is based on our fan rankings for each of the four North American professional sports leagues—the NFL, the NHL, the NBA and MLB. Only cities with a team in at least three of those leagues were considered, the assumption being that a city that can field at least one team in every league already has a stronger fan base than a city that can field only one, or has lost a team in a relocation. (Pitting Green Bay, with only one professional sports team, against New York, which has nine teams, does not make for a meaningful comparison.) Each league ranking was compiled based on three years of the following fan consumption metrics: local television ratings (per Nielsen), stadium attendance based on capacity reached, secondary ticket demand (per StubHub), merchandise sales (per Fanatics), social media reach (Facebook and Twitter followers based on the team’s metro area population) and hometown crowd reach (defined by Nielsen as a percentage of the metropolitan area population that listened to, watched and/or attended a game in the last year). Television information was unavailable for every Canadian team, but no teams were penalized in the ranking for that missing metric. The listing of each city’s oldest team and its debut date is for the oldest team currently playing in that city, regardless of whether that franchise originated in another city. Championships include those won in football before a league merger formed the current NFL.

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