Best Cities for Sports Fans

October 26, 2018 by Grant Suneson

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Being a sports fan can be tough. With at least 30 franchises in each league vying for a title, fans almost always end a season disappointed, or even heartbroken. But that can make the excitement of a playoff run or the joy of a championship that much better. Fans can have a good time cheering for their city’s teams no matter where they are. But it’s certainly easier — and perhaps better — to be a sports fan in some cities than others.

Boston is the perfect example of a great sports city. All four of the teams that play in and around the area have won a title recently, and all seem to be in the hunt for another ring each year. Since 2000, Boston teams have won 10 championships.

But not every city can be as fortunate as Boston. Phoenix, for instance, also has four different franchises, but none has been very successful. The Cardinals and Suns have been good at times, but they have never won a title. The Coyotes have only made the playoffs four times since 2001. Only the Diamondbacks have brought a title to the desert, winning the 2001 World Series.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the regular season and playoff success of teams in the four major sports leagues to determine the best city for sports fans in America.

Click here to see the best cities for sports fans.

Championships are, of course, the ultimate goal in sports. But putting together winning seasons is also important. Winning games and getting into the playoffs can energize a fan base and give hope for a future title — or at least keep fans interested enough to spend money on tickets.

Teams tend to ebb and flow in terms of success, as even the best franchises sometimes have to rebuild and traditionally struggling teams can put together an improbable run and win a title. Over the course of time, things tend to even out. To get a better sense of the overall quality of a city’s sporting success, we reviewed statistics from the past 50 years.

There are a dozen U.S. metro areas with a local franchise in each of the four major sports leagues: Washington, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Miami, Detroit, Denver, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Chicago has two baseball teams, and L.A. and New York have two teams in all four leagues.

Sports fans who live in an area like Salt Lake City or Portland, where there is just one sports franchise, likely pick teams to root for in other cities. While that can still be gratifying, those fans likely won’t be able to attend many games or feel the same connection and sense of community as they would if they lived nearby.

To determine the best cities for sports fans, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed several metrics of teams representing major metro areas over the last 50 years. Those metrics include the total number of championships won, playoff appearances, winning percentage, and franchises currently representing a city. We reviewed the four major sports leagues: NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA. WHL and ABA championships were not considered. Teams were sorted based on the metro area in which their home arena is located. Cities with no active pro sports franchises were not considered.

The Golden State Warriors were considered as an Oakland team when they played in Oakland, and a San Francisco area team when they played in San Francisco. The New England Patriots, who play in Foxboro, Massachusetts, were considered as a Boston team.

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20. Baltimore
> Number of teams: 2
> Championships in the last 50 years: 5
> Average win percentage: 53.0%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 33
> Last championship: Baltimore Ravens, 2012

Though 2018 was the Orioles’ worst season since moving to Baltimore more than 60 years ago, the city’s sports fans have usually gotten to enjoy quality teams over the past 50 years. The Orioles are typically a winning squad, though they have not won the World Series since 1983. The Baltimore Colts were one of the best teams in the NFL, winning Super Bowl V before leaving for Indianapolis. Since joining the NFL in 1996, the Baltimore Ravens have been to the playoffs 10 times and won the Super Bowl twice.

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19. Houston
> Number of teams: 3
> Championships in the last 50 years: 3
> Average win percentage: 48.0%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 56
> Last championship: Houston Astros, 2017

After years of struggles, the Houston Astros finally broke through and won the World Series in 2017. Prior to that, the only Houston team to win a title was the Rockets of the NBA, who won championships in 1994 and 1995 — the Bulls had been the dominant team of the NBA in the 1990s, but the Rockets didn’t have to face them either season. Michael Jordan missed most of those two seasons because he opted to play minor league baseball instead of continuing the Chicago Bulls dynasty.

The favored sport in Texas is football, but Houston can’t seem to find a winning NFL team. Though the Oilers won the first two AFL championships, once the franchise joined the NFL it struggled to find postseason success. The Oilers eventually left for Tennessee, and Houston’s new football team, the Texans, has never won more than one postseason game in a season.

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18. Atlanta
> Number of teams: 3
> Championships in the last 50 years: 1
> Average win percentage: 49.0%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 66
> Last championship: Atlanta Braves, 1995

Atlanta sports fans have had to deal with more than their fair share of heartbreak. The Falcons are 0-2 in the Super Bowl, including a blown 28-3 lead against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The Hawks of the NBA have been subpar since moving to Georgia from St. Louis. The team has not made the NBA Finals since relocating.

The lone bright spot of the last 50 years is the Braves’ 1995 World Series Championship behind the team’s trio of ace pitchers — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Though the Braves won a ring, the team lost in its four other trips to the World Series that decade, in 1991, 1992, 1996, and 1999.

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17. St. Louis
> Number of teams: 2
> Championships in the last 50 years: 4
> Average win percentage: 49.4%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 64
> Last championship: St. Louis Cardinals, 2011

Though the St. Louis area currently has two professional sports teams, only one helps make the city great for fans — the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have won 11 World Series titles, three of them in the last 50 years. The Cardinals have been to the playoffs 12 times since the 2000 season and brought home championships in 2006 and 2011. The Blues, on the other hand, have starved for a championship since the franchise joined the NHL in 1967. The Blues lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in their first three years, and they haven’t been back since.

St. Louis fans recently lost their football team. The Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995, won the Super Bowl a few seasons later, and bolted back to their previous home in 2016.

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16. Minneapolis
> Number of teams: 4
> Championships in the last 50 years: 2
> Average win percentage: 50.0%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 58
> Last championship: Minnesota Twins, 1991

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is home to a team in each of the four major sports leagues — and most of them have been a source of misery. Minnesota fans had to watch their North Stars relocate to Dallas in 1993, then win the Stanley Cup a few years later. The North Stars’ replacement, the Wild, typically get bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. The Timberwolves have historically been lousy. And the Minnesota Vikings are 0-4 in the Super Bowl, their last appearance following the 1976 season. Only the Minnesota Twins have been able to win a championship. Kirby Puckett led the baseball team to the title in 1987 and 1991, both via dramatic game seven wins.

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15. San Antonio
> Number of teams: 1
> Championships in the last 50 years: 5
> Average win percentage: 62.3%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 38
> Last championship: San Antonio Spurs, 2014

Almost all of the best sports towns in the country have several good teams, but San Antonio has a single dominant franchise. Since joining the NBA in 1976, the San Antonio Spurs have won more than 62% of their games and missed the playoffs just four times. Coach Gregg Popovich and power forward Tim Duncan combined for five titles starting in 1999. With Duncan retiring and Kawhi Leonard being traded to Toronto, the Spurs run of championships may come to end. But very few fan bases have ever gotten to enjoy as much success as San Antonio fans have over the past 20 years.

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14. San Francisco
> Number of teams: 2
> Championships in the last 50 years: 8
> Average win percentage: 52.6%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 35
> Last championship: San Francisco Giants, 2014

Over the past few decades, San Francisco has been home to two great dynasties. The San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana at quarterback, won four Super Bowls in the 1980s. When Steve Young, Montana’s backup for many seasons, took over, he got a ring of his own in 1994.

The San Francisco Giants struggled for many years after moving from New York. The franchise had a championship drought of over 50 years before finally winning the World Series in 2010. The Giants, led by catcher Buster Posey, would go on to win the World Series again in 2012 and 2014. Many San Francisco fans likely cheer for the San Jose Sharks of the NHL and Golden State Warriors of the NBA, but since those teams are in the San Jose and Oakland areas, respectively, their success does not count for San Francisco.

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13. Montreal
> Number of teams: 1
> Championships in the last 50 years: 9
> Average win percentage: 54.1%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 41
> Last championship: Montreal Canadiens, 1993

In the last 50 years, the Montreal Canadiens have brought home nine Stanley Cups. Only the Los Angeles Lakers have won more titles in that timespan. Most of Montreal’s success came in the 1970s, when the Habs won six Stanley Cups. The team has not been able to replicate that level of excellence lately, as they haven’t hoisted the Cup since 1993. The Canadiens are the only game in town, as the Montreal Expos played their last season in 2004, before heading south of the border and becoming the Washington Nationals.

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12. Miami
> Number of teams: 4
> Championships in the last 50 years: 7
> Average win percentage: 51.2%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 50
> Last championship: Miami Heat, 2013

Of Miami’s four sports franchises, only its hockey team, the Panthers, have failed to bring home a championship — not that you would expect an ice hockey team to thrive in Southern Florida. Dwyane Wade led the Miami Heat to an NBA title in 2006, then won back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013, when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. The Miami Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since 2000, but they won back-to-back titles in 1972 and 1973. The 1972 Fins team still holds the distinction as the only NFL team to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl.

Unlike the dominant Dolphins and Heat title teams, it was somewhat of a surprise when the Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. The Marlins had never been a winning team since forming in 1993, but four years later, the team made the playoffs as a wild card and beat the Cleveland Indians in an 11-inning game seven. The team then traded away most of their best players and didn’t make the playoffs again until 2003, when they again earned a wild card spot and won the World Series. Those remain the only playoff appearances in Miami’s history.

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11. Washington
> Number of teams: 4
> Championships in the last 50 years: 5
> Average win percentage: 49.6%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 73
> Last championship: Washington Capitals, 2018

During the summer, the Washington Capitals snapped their 42-year championship drought by bringing home the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. After years of being beaten by the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Ovechkin and company finally won the title. That championship also snapped Washington’s 27-year citywide title drought. The Redskins had been the most recent D.C. team to win a title, bringing home the franchise’s third Super Bowl in the 1991 season.

The Wizards have gone 40 years without a title, last winning in 1978, when they were known as the Bullets. Baseball has been a consistent source of agony in the nation’s capital, as two different Senators franchises left — first for Minnesota, then Dallas. The Nationals, who moved from Montreal after the 2004 season, have played well the last few seasons, but still have yet to win a postseason series.

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10. Denver
> Number of teams: 4
> Championships in the last 50 years: 5
> Average win percentage: 52.4%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 65
> Last championship: Denver Broncos, 2015

The Denver area has had a team in all four major sports only since the ’90s. The Colorado Rockies played their first season in 1993, and the Colorado Avalanche moved from Quebec in 1995. The Rockies have made the World Series just once, when they were swept by the Red Sox in 2007. The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 1996 — their first season in Colorado. Many of the same players were still on the roster when they won another Cup in 2001. But the real pride and joy of Denver sports is clearly the Broncos. The team lost four Super Bowls before John Elway and his teammates were finally able to win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998. Peyton Manning then finished his career by helping Von Miller and the Broncos defense win Super Bowl 50.

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9. Oakland
> Number of teams: 3
> Championships in the last 50 years: 10
> Average win percentage: 50.8%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 58
> Last championship: Golden State Warriors, 2018

Oakland has three professional sports teams, but not for long. The Raiders are leaving Oakland for the second time, departing for Las Vegas some time after 2020. The Warriors, which are also leaving the city, are at least staying in the Bay Area, planning to play in San Francisco starting in 2019. The Warriors will be leaving at the height of their dominance, winning three of the last four NBA titles — and they seem poised to win another. The Raiders also left during their best years. They won the Super Bowl after the 1976 and 1980 seasons, then left for Los Angeles in 1982. Soon, the only team left will be the Athletics of the MLB. The As last won a World Series in 1989.

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8. Dallas
> Number of teams: 4
> Championships in the last 50 years: 7
> Average win percentage: 54.3%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 73
> Last championship: Dallas Mavericks, 2011

The best team from Dallas is undoubtedly the Cowboys. America’s Team won two Super Bowls in the 1970s with coach Tom Landry, then picked up three more in the 1990s with the legendary triplets — Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin — leading the offense. Dallas sports fans have gotten to cheer on many other all-time greats. Dirk Nowitzki made the Dallas Mavericks perennial Western Conference contenders and guided the franchise to its only title in 2011. Mike Modano led the Dallas Stars to their only title in 1999. He would later become the all-time greatest American-born scorer in NHL history. The Texas Rangers are the only Dallas-area team to never win a championship, though they did come within one strike of beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 World Series.

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7. Philadelphia
> Number of teams: 4
> Championships in the last 50 years: 6
> Average win percentage: 51.5%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 101
> Last championship: Philadelphia Eagles, 2017

After decades of futility, the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl in 2017. Thanks to the outstanding performance of backup quarterback Nick Foles and some gutsy play calling from coach Doug Petersen, the Eagles beat the New England Patriots in one of the wildest Super Bowls ever. Now each of Philadelphia’s four major sports teams has won a championship in the past 50 years. Previously, the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and 1980, the 76ers won the NBA Championship in 1982, and the Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.

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6. Detroit
> Number of teams: 4
> Championships in the last 50 years: 9
> Average win percentage: 48.7%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 89
> Last championship: Detroit Red Wings, 2008

Though the Detroit Lions have been historically terrible, winning just one playoff game in the Super Bowl era, the other three teams in Detroit have made up for it. The Tigers have captured two World Series crowns in the last 50 years, in 1968 and 1984. The “Bad Boy” Pistons won consecutive NBA Finals in 1989 and 1990. The 2004 Pistons shocked the NBA, using their smothering defense to upset the Los Angeles Lakers and win another title. Detroit’s best team in recent history, however, is undoubtedly the Red Wings. The Wings snapped a 42-year Stanley Cup drought in 1997, then followed it up with championships in 1998, 2002, and 2008.

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5. Pittsburgh
> Number of teams: 3
> Championships in the last 50 years: 13
> Average win percentage: 53.4%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 75
> Last championship: Pittsburgh Penguins, 2017

No city — not even those with multiple NFL franchises — has won more Super Bowls than Pittsburgh. The Steelers have won the Lombardi trophy six times. Four of those titles were won in the 1970s, when coach Chuck Noll led quarterback Terry Bradshaw and the infamous “Steel Curtain” defense to back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975, then 1978 and 1979. Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to the other two titles, in 2005 and 2008. Steel City fans have also gotten to witness greatness on the ice. Mario Lemieux captained the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. Then Sidney Crosby became the face of the franchise, winning the Cup in 2009, 2016, and 2017. Though the Pirates have never had a true dynasty, they won the World Series twice in the past 50 years — in 1971 and 1979.

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4. Chicago
> Number of teams: 5
> Championships in the last 50 years: 12
> Average win percentage: 50.4%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 100
> Last championship: Chicago Cubs, 2016

For many years, Chicago sports teams seemed to fail consistently. After the Chicago Bears’ NFL championship in 1963, the city went decades without a winner. The Windy City finally became a winning city when the legendary 1985 Bears won Chicago’s only Super Bowl. Michael Jordan and the Bulls would go on to dominate the 1990s, winning six championships during that decade. In 2005, the White Sox snapped a World Series drought that stretched back to 1917. In 2010, the Blackhawks ended a 50-year drought of their own, winning their first of three Stanley Cups over a six year span.

But no title drought can compare with that of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubbies had not won a World Series since 1908, and many believed they were being held back by the fabled “Curse of the Billy Goat.” After 108 years, though, the Cubs finally broke through and won the 2016 World Series in a thrilling extra-inning game seven against the Cleveland Indians.

 

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3. Boston
> Number of teams: 4
> Championships in the last 50 years: 18
> Average win percentage: 57.0%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 120
> Last championship: New England Patriots, 2016

No fan base has been spoiled by success like Boston’s has in recent years. Since 2008, each of Boston’s four major sports franchises has won at least one championship. The Celtics won seven titles in the last 50 years, the most recent in 2008. Bobby Orr led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup titles in the early 1970s. The Bruins wouldn’t win their next Cup until 2011. The Red Sox overcame 86 years of failure to win the 2004 World Series. The Sox then won it again in 2007 and 2013. But no recent team has personified consistent excellence like the New England Patriots. Since quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick teamed up in 2001, the Pats have won five Super Bowls.

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2. Los Angeles
> Number of teams: 8
> Championships in the last 50 years: 18
> Average win percentage: 53.1%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 146
> Last championship: Los Angeles Kings, 2014

Now that the Chargers and Rams have moved there, Los Angeles has eight pro sports franchises — two in each of the four major sports. Far and away, the best team in L.A. is the Lakers. Throughout the last 50 years, the Lakers have racked up 11 NBA championships thanks to stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal. Los Angeles has also had a great run of success in baseball. The Dodgers brought home the World Series in 1981 and 1988, and the Angels won their lone championship in 2002. Surprisingly, Southern California is also home to two good hockey teams as well. The Anaheim Ducks won their only Stanley Cup in 2007, and the L.A. Kings won the Cup in 2012 and 2014. Though the Rams have won a Super Bowl, it came while the team was in St. Louis. However, the Raiders won a Lombardi Trophy while representing L.A. in 1983.

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1. New York
> Number of teams: 8
> Championships in the last 50 years: 21
> Average win percentage: 49.4%
> Playoff appearances in the last 50 years: 185
> Last championship: New York Giants, 2011

New York is America’s No.1 town for sports fans. With eight sports franchises, fans have a lot to choose from, and most of the teams have been competitive. Over the past 50 years, New York teams have brought 21 titles to the Big Apple. The Yankees are New York’s most dominant team. The Bronx Bombers have seven World Series titles from the past 50 years: 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009. Their rivals in Queens, the Mets, are no slouches either. They won the World Series in 1969 and 1986.

Basketball success has been harder to come by. The Knicks won two NBA championships in the 1970s but haven’t had much playoff success since. Since moving to Brooklyn from New Jersey, the Nets have struggled to put together winning seasons. On the ice, the New York Rangers only have one championship since the NHL expanded beyond six teams, which came in 1994. The Islanders, though, won four consecutive Stanley Cups in the early 1980s.

The New York Giants have also won four championships over the last 50 years. Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms led the G-men to the 1986 title, then they won another one four years later. Eli Manning’s Giants also won their two Super Bowls four years apart, upsetting the heavily favored New England Patriots both times. The Jets have been mostly hapless recently, the lone bright spot coming 50 years ago, when Joe Namath led the Jets to a win in Super Bowl III.