Special Report

Cities That Have Lost the Most Teams

Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images

Since 2015, three different NFL franchises — the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders — have moved to a new city. Though it has become rarer in recent years, this is not an uncommon occurrence. There have been over 150 incidents of major American pro sports franchises changing cities or folding operations, 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.

To determine the cities that have 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 — the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, AFL, WHA, and ABA — 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.

A large share of 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. These are the best cities for sports fans.

Click here to see the cities that have lost the most teams.

Source: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

16. Oakland
> Teams lost: 4
> Most recent: Oakland Raiders, 2020
> Current teams: Athletics, Warriors

After the 2019 NFL season, the Raiders franchise left the Bay Area again, this time for Las Vegas. The first time the Raiders ditched Oakland was for Los Angeles, after the 1981 season. But they returned for the 1995 season. And though the team was not considered for the ranking because it is so close, the Golden State Warriors moved from Oakland across the bay to San Francisco after the 2019 season.


Source: W. W. Somers / The Sporting News Collection / Wikimedia Commons

15. Boston
> Teams lost: 4
> Most recent: Boston Braves, 1953
> Current teams: Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins

Boston may be dominant in professional sports today, but not all teams have prospered there. The Boston Yanks football team folded in the 1940s, while the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953 after they won the National League pennant in 1948.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

14. Cincinnati
> Teams lost: 4
> Most recent: Cincinnati Stingers, 1979
> Current teams: Reds, Bengals

Cincinnati, home to professional baseball’s oldest team, the Reds, has lost four professional sports teams over the years — most notably, the Cincinnati Royals. The NBA team, made famous by Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas in the 1960s, moved to Kansas City in 1972.

Source: Jay Publishing / Wikimedia Commons

13. Kansas City
> Teams lost: 4
> Most recent: Kansas City Kings, 1985
> Current teams: Royals, Chiefs

Kansas City has lost four pro teams. Two of the teams that departed — the A’s from Major League Baseball and the Kings from the NBA — had come from other cities.


Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

12. Milwaukee
> Teams lost: 4
> Most recent: Milwaukee Braves, 1965
> Current teams: Brewers, Bucks

The Braves spent 13 years in Milwaukee, where they won consecutive National League pennants in 1957 and 1958 and a world championship in 1957. They moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season, where they enjoyed even greater success.

Source: The Sporting News Collection / Wikimedia Commons

11. Philadelphia
> Teams lost: 4
> Most recent: Philadelphia Blazers, 1973
> Current teams: Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, 76ers

Though Philadelphia fans still have a team to cheer in all four major sports, the city has also lost four pro sports franchises. One early NHL team, the Quakers, folded after one season in 1931, and a World Hockey Association team, the Blazers, left for Vancouver after one season in the 1970s.


Source: Keystone / Getty Images

10. Baltimore
> Teams lost: 5
> Most recent: Baltimore Colts, 1984
> Current teams: Orioles, Ravens

Baltimore sports fans had to suffer one of the most controversial franchise moves in American pro sports history, when Colts owner Bob Irsay quickly and quietly moved the team to Indianapolis in 1984 after stadium negotiations with the city fell through.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

9. Chicago
> Teams lost: 5
> Most recent: Chicago Cougars, 1975
> Current teams: Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox

The Chicago Cougars of the now-defunct World Hockey Association were the last pro team to leave the Windy City. The NFL’s Cardinals played in Chicago before moving to St. Louis after the 1959 season.

Source: Rick Stewart / Getty Images

8. Minneapolis
> Teams lost: 5
> Most recent: Minnesota North Stars, 1993
> Current teams: Twins, Vikings, Wild, Timberwolves

Minneapolis is represented in all four major professional sports. The last pro team to leave the city was the NHL’s North Stars, who became the Dallas Stars.


Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

7. Washington, D.C.
> Teams lost: 5
> Most recent: Washington Senators, 1971
> Current teams: Wizards, Redskins, Capitals, Nationals

Washington D.C. has lost two teams twice — the Capitols and Senators. The Caps were one of the original teams of the BAA, which eventually became the NBA. After five seasons, the team folded. There was a Washington Capitols revival in the ABA in 1970, but that team lasted just one season before moving to Virginia and becoming the Squires. The MLB’s Senators left D.C. twice. Once they left after the 1960 season to become the Minnesota Twins. Then, after a new Senators franchise was formed, they left after the 1971 season to become the Texas Rangers.

Source: George Rose / Getty Images

6. San Diego
> Teams lost: 5
> Most recent: San Diego Chargers, 2016
> Current teams: Padres

San Diego lost teams much more recently than most cities on this list. After losing the NBA’s Rockets to Houston in 1971, San Diego welcomed a new team, the Buffalo Braves, and changed the team’s name to the Clippers. But owner Donald Sterling moved the team to Los Angeles after six seasons. The NFL’s Chargers, who had played in San Diego for more than 50 years, also left for Los Angeles after the 2016 season.


Source: Michiganensian / Wikimedia Commons

5. Detroit
> Teams lost: 6
> Most recent: Michigan Stags, 1975
> Current teams: Lions, Red Wings, Tigers, Pistons

Though Detroit ranks highly on this list, its pro sports franchises have been fairly stable as of late. In the 1920s, Detroit had four different professional football franchises — the Heralds, Panthers, Tigers, and Wolverines — that lasted no more than two seasons. Detroit also had a basketball team called the Falcons and a hockey team called the Stags that lasted just one season apiece.

Source: Mike Powell / Allsport / Getty Images

4. Los Angeles
> Teams lost: 7
> Most recent: Los Angeles Rams & Los Angeles Raiders, 1995
> Current teams: Dodgers, Angels, Ducks, Kings, Rams, Chargers, Lakers, Clippers

Los Angeles has the unenviable distinction of having lost two NFL teams in the same year — the Rams and Raiders in 1994. But it also got two back. The Rams returned in 2016 after moving back from St. Louis, and the Chargers started playing in L.A. in 2017 after leaving San Diego.

Source: George Rose / Getty Images

3. Cleveland
> Teams lost: 8
> Most recent: Cleveland Browns, 1995
> Current teams: Cavaliers, Browns, Indians

Despite Ohio’s love for football, Cleveland fans have had a hard time holding on to their football franchises. Cleveland was home to several short-lived pro football teams in the 1920s. The Rams franchise initially belonged to Cleveland but departed after the 1945 season. Cleveland still has the Browns, though the franchise had to be essentially restarted in 1999 after owner Art Modell moved the original Browns to Baltimore after the 1995 season.


Source: Elsa Hasch / Allsport / Getty Images

2. St. Louis
> Teams lost: 9
> Most recent: St. Louis Rams, 2015
> Current teams: Blues, Cardinals

The NFL’s Cardinals, who now play in Arizona, called St. Louis home from 1960 to 1987. The Rams also just recently left St. Louis for Los Angeles at the behest of owner Stan Kroenke. The Atlanta Hawks of the NBA were the St. Louis Hawks for more than a decade in the 1950s and 1960s. Some may not remember that St. Louis had an MLB team besides the Cardinals for over 50 years. The Browns played in Missouri from 1902 to 1953 before relocating to Baltimore and changing their name to the Orioles.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

1. New York
> Teams lost: 12
> Most recent: New York Nets, 1977
> Current teams: Jets, Giants, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Islanders, Nets, Knicks

As the largest city in the U.S., 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 of the MLB decamped for California after the 1957 season. New York has also passed the Nets franchise back and forth with New Jersey. The team currently plays in Brooklyn.

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