The Chargers and the Raiders moved to new cities. Though it has become rarer in recent years, such relocations are not uncommon. Major American pro sports franchises have changed cities or folded operations more than 150 times, leaving behind thousands of disappointed fans in dozens of cities. However, some places have suffered the loss of a beloved team much more frequently than others have.
To determine the city that has lost the most teams, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the Sports Reference family of sites to review the histories of major American pro sports leagues (ABA, AFL, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and WHA) and tally the number of pro sports franchises from each city that either relocated or folded. Teams were associated with the major metro area closest to their home stadium.
Many teams that moved or ceased operations did so early in the 20th century, struggling with the financial hardship of the Great Depression, among other issues. In those days, before lucrative TV broadcasting deals and league revenue sharing, even some of the most successful franchises became insolvent and ceased operations. These are the greatest pro sports teams that have disappeared.
Some teams began in small cities like Fort Wayne, Indiana, or Decatur, Illinois, and needed a larger fan base than those places could provide. In 2021, just about every major sports franchise was located in a large metro area, with many large cities hosting multiple franchises, giving their residents a team to cheer for year-round.
New York is the city that has lost the most sports teams at 12. The team it lost most recently was the New York Nets in 1977. Its current teams are the Giants, Jets, Islanders, Knicks, Mets, Nets, Rangers and Yankees.
As the largest city in the United States, New York was a breeding ground for failed pro sports franchises during the early part of the 20th century. The city was home to eight NFL franchises that had all folded by 1951, while the Jets and Giants endured. More recently, the Giants and Dodgers baseball teams decamped for California after the 1957 season. New York also has passed the Nets franchise back and forth with New Jersey. The team currently plays in Brooklyn.