Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Look at the 50 Largest Cities in the US

One thing I’ve always found interesting is the representation of various geographical areas in the major professional sports in the US. For this discussion, I’ll include not only the Big Four (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL), but also the MLS as it has gained a major foothold in the Pacific Northwest (minor league teams, generally, don’t average 30,000 fans to their home games).

For instance, the oldest American sports leagues, MLB and the NFL, are to this day still tied mostly to the Northeast and Midwest. For instance, in today’s NFL the chance of a bunch of guys getting together and locating a team in a city the of Green Bay, Wisconsin is basically zero. But with a limited home game schedule, the NFL can get away with using football as a regional draw (which also explains why college football is huge in the Southeast, which did not see major professional sports until the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966).

Below is a table of the 49 largest “population centers” in the US. I basically made that term up, but it rolls off the tongue better than “Primary Combined Statistical Area”, which is what the Census calls them. I specifically went with that metric because it will combine what are considered separate Metropolitan Statistical Areas in close geographical proximity. To use an example: the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Combined Statistical Area is actually two separate MSAs: San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara. While local residents would quickly call the latter the “South Bay”, the whole region is intertwined and known as the “Bay Area”, especially for sports. This table from Wikipedia is my source, and their source are the 2011 Census Estimates.

PCSA Population (2011) NFL MLB NBA NHL MLS
New York-Newark-Bridgeport 22,214,083 New York Giants (East Rutherford, NJ)
New York Jets (East Rutherford, NJ)
New York Yankees
New York Mets
Brooklyn Nets
New York Knicks
New Jersey Devils (Newark)
New York Islanders (Uniondale, NY)
New York Rangers
New York Red Bulls (Harrison, NJ)
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside 18,081,569 None Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
Anaheim Ducks
Los Angeles Kings
Chivas USA (Carson, CA)
Los Angeles Galaxy (Carson, CA)
Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City 9,729,825 Chicago Bears Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Chicago Bulls Chicago Blackhawks Chicago Fire (Bridgeview, IL)
Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia 8,718,083 Baltimore Ravens
Washington Redskins
Baltimore Orioles
Washington Nationals
Washington Wizards Washington Capitals D.C. United
Boston-Worcester-Manchester 7,601,061 New England Patriots (Foxborough, MA) Boston Red Sox Boston Celtics Boston Bruins New England Revolution (Foxborough, MA)
San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland 7,563,460 Oakland Raiders
San Francisco 49ers
Oakland Athletics
San Francisco Giants
Golden State Warriors (Oakland, CA) San Jose Sharks San Jose Earthquakes
Dallas-Fort Worth 6,887,383 Dallas Cowboys Texas Rangers (Arlington, TX) Dallas Mavericks Dallas Stars FC Dallas
Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland 6,562,287 Philadelphia Eagles Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia 76ers Philadelphia Flyers Philadelphia Union (Chester, PA)
Houston-Baytown-Huntsville 6,191,434 Houston Texans Houston Astros Houston Rockets None Houston Dynamo
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville 5,712,148 Atlanta Falcons Atlanta Braves Atlanta Hawks None None
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach 5,670,125 Miami Dolphins Miami Marlins Miami Heat Florida Panthers (Sunrise, FL) None
Detroit-Warren-Flint 5,207,434 Detroit Lions Detroit Tigers Detroit Pistons Detroit Red Wings None
Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia 4,269,349 Seattle Seahawks Seattle Mariners None None Seattle Sounders
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale 4,263,236 Arizona Cardinals (Glendale, AZ) Arizona Diamondbacks (Phoenix, AZ) Phoenix Suns Phoenix Coyotes (Glendale, AZ) None
Minneapolis-St. Paul-St. Cloud 3,655,558 Minnesota Vikings (Minneapolis, MN) Minnesota Twins (Minneapolis, MN) Minnesota Timberwolves (Minneapolis, MN) Minnesota Wild (St. Paul, MN) None
Denver-Aurora-Boulder 3,157,520 Denver Broncos Colorado Rockies (Denver, CO) Denver Nuggets Colorado Avalanche (Denver, CO) Colorado Rapids (Commerce City, CO)
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos 3,140,069 San Diego Chargers San Diego Padres None None None
St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington 2,882,932 St. Louis Rams St. Louis Cardinals None St. Louis Blues None
Cleveland-Akron-Elyria 2,871,084 Cleveland Browns Cleveland Indians Cleveland Cavaliers None None
Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach 2,861,296 None None Orlando Magic None None
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 2,824,724 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa Bay Rays (St. Petersburg, FL) None Tampa Bay Lightning None
Sacramento-Arden Arcade-Yuba City 2,489,230 None None Sacramento Kings None None
Pittsburgh-New Castle 2,450,281 Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Pirates None Pittsburgh Penguins None
Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury 2,442,564 Carolina Panthers (Charlotte, NC) None Charlotte Bobcats None None
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro 2,262,605 None None Portland Trail Blazers None Portland Timbers
San Antonio-New Braunfels 2,194,927 None None San Antonio Spurs None None
Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilimington 2,179,965 Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati Reds None None Columbus Crew
Kansas City-Overland Park-Kansas City 2,122,908 Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City Royals None None Sporting Kansas City
Indianapolis-Anderson-Columbus 2,103,574 Indianapolis Colts None Indiana Pacers (Indianapolis, IN) None None
Columbus-Marion-Chillicothe 2,093,185 None None None Columbus Blue Jackets Columbus Crew
Las Vegas-Paradise-Pahrump 2,013,326 None None None None None
Austin-Round Rock-Marble Falls 1,826,636 None None None None None
Religh-Durham-Cary 1,795,750 None None None Carolina Hurricanes (Raleigh, NC) None
Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield 1,776,528 None None Utah Jazz (Salt Lake City, UT) None Real Salt Lake
Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha 1,757,604 None Milwaukee Brewers Milwaukee Bucks None None
Nashville-Davdison-Murfeesboro-Columbia 1,698,651 Tennessee Titans (Nashville, TN) None None Nashville Predators None
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News 1,679,894 None None None None None
Grenesboro-Winston-Salem-High Point 1,602,693 None None None None None
Louisville/Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Scottsburg 1,440,607 None None None None None
Jacksonville 1,360,251 Jacksonville Jaguars None None None None
Oklahoma City-Shawnee 1,348,333 None None Oklahoma City Thunder None None
Hartford-West Hartford-Willimantic 1,331,406 None None None None None
Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland 1,328,440 None None None None None
Memphis 1,328,440 None None Memphis Grizzlies None None
Greenville-Spartanburgh-Anderson 1,281,394 None None None None None
Richmond 1,269,380 None None None None None
New Orleans-Metaire-Bogalusa 1,238,228 New Orleans Saints None New Orleans Hornets None None
Buffalo-Niagara-Cattaraugus 1,213,871 Buffalo Bills None None Buffalo Sabres None
Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman 1,212,800 None None None None None

Apologies to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, which was the only area on the list that I felt like could have been separated. As it is, we can gather some interesting observations:

  • As everyone knows, Los Angeles does not have a NFL team.
  • Orlando is the largest market without a baseball team. Though it’s worth noting the only league represented there is the NBA.
  • Green Bay, as the 138th largest such area, is the only American city represented in any of the major sports leagues that isn’t on this list. 
  • The largest city on the list with no major professional sports teams is Las Vegas. This isn’t surprising, given that the leagues seem eager to avoid any potential stigma they could have thrown at them by being associated with Vegas. 
  • I don’t really know why Nashville and Raleigh have hockey teams.
  • Note that the numbers for Buffalo don’t include any population over the border in Canada.
  • New Orleans, the other small multi-sport city on this list, used to be slightly larger, at 1,360,346 in 2000 (the city proper took an even larger hit, with its populating decreasing 29.1% percent between 2000 and 2010). 
  • The NFL’s expansion in the South definitely seemed to capitalize on the idea of making it a more regional sport, considering Nashville and Jacksonville’s locations on this list. I’d say that’s currently working slightly better in the former than the latter.
  • Where would you threaten to move to today if you were a baseball owner trying to extort a new stadium from your fans? Other places were named in the past, but Washington, D.C. had to have always been the most serious candidate. Orlando is not a target, and it’s too close to Tampa anyway. Portland used to be thrown around in the past, but it never made sense to me. What would make sense to me is to put a team in the Jersey part of the New York area, but the chances of that happening are basically zero.
  • The fact that there are no professional basketball teams in Missouri strikes me as a bit odd, especially considering some of the places there are NBA teams.
  • Then again, perhaps some of the “odd” NBA and NHL locations are attempts to capitalize on being the only game in town when it comes to major sports.
  • There are currently no MLS teams south of D.C. or east of Houston, though I believe they’re thinking about a team in Miami or Atlanta.
  • Virginia is the largest state without any major professional sports teams. (In fairness, the most populated region of the state is the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.)