Biggest U.S. Cities Without Professional Sports

Most professional sports leagues are successful when they have franchises in major U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Unfortunately, some of the cities with the largest populations get left out. Then you have cities such as Green Bay and Oklahoma City who get professional sports teams even though they aren’t in the top of U.S. population. Some cities are more popular than others.

Here are cities currently without a professional sports franchise in the five major leagues (Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League or Major League Soccer):

Austin, Texas (964,254)

The closest professional sports team is the San Antonio Spurs which is about 80 miles away from Texas’ state capital city. Although home to the University of Texas and several minor league teams, there has been no talk of any of the major leagues placing a franchise here. Austin seems to fall behind San Antonio and Houston which are 4th and 7th in U.S. population.

Current minor league teams: Spurs (basketball), Round Rock Express (baseball) and Stars (hockey)

What could work here? Perhaps an National Hockey League (NHL) team since there aren’t any in San Antonio or Houston. Austin was – in fact – awarded an MLS franchise and will begin play in 2021.

Fort Worth, Texas (895,008)

Technically, Fort Worth has the Dallas Cowboys as AT&T Stadium is only 18 minutes away but Fort Worth really has no team to call its’ own. The Texas Rangers are also 18 minutes away as well. Forth Worth has to adopt Dallas as their teams.

Current minor league teams: Vaqueros FC (soccer)

What could work here? Nothing really since they are so close to the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks and Stars. They are just cursed to be so close. Nobody really likes a hyphenated team called the Dallas-Ft. Worth team. St. Paul and Minneapolis are in a similar situation but they use Minnesota as their team name but they are the only sports teams in that state. I can’t see anyone changing names to Texas Cowboys or Texas Mavericks.

El Paso, Texas (682,669)

Here’s another Texas city without a team and they are a long way from the closest one. The Arizona Cardinals are actually the closest team to El Paso at over 400 miles away.

Current minor league Teams: Chihuahuas (baseball) and Coyotes (indoor soccer)

What would work here? With El Paso on the border of Mexico, it would probably work to have an MLS team since soccer would be pretty popular. Unfortunately, there has been no talk of locating an expansion team here.

Louisville, Kentucky (620,118)

Of all the cities on this list, Louisville seems to be the most ideal location for a professional sports franchise. The Cincinnati Reds and Bengals are the closest to Louisville almost 100 miles away. The city had the Kentucky Colonels in the old American Basketball Association (ABA) in the 1960s-1970s but nothing serious since then.

Current minor league teams: Bats (baseball) and Louisville City FC (soccer)

What would work here? Definitely the NBA. Kentucky loves basketball and it would seem a perfect choice for an NBA franchise since the closest one is five hours around in Memphis. It seems odd that no new leagues have even considered Louisville. It would seem like a prime location.

Albuquerque, New Mexico (560,218)

The pro sports teams in Phoenix are the closest at 480 miles away from the largest city in New Mexico. The city did have a short-lived professional volleyball team in the 70s called the Lasers but nothing much except for minor league teams. There hasn’t been any discussion to include Albuquerque from any of the major sports leagues plus it’s not that easy to spell on a consistent basis.

Current minor league teams: Isotopes (baseball), United (soccer) and Duke City Gladiators (indoor football)

What would work here? Probably nothing. It seems that this city will be stuck in the minor leagues. Baseball seems to be the most popular sport here but I wouldn’t think the MLB would expand or move a team here.

Tucson, Arizona (545,975)

Tucson is about 113 miles away from Phoenix for their professional sports teams but none of their own. Tucson loves baseball as they are busy during MLB’s spring training in March every year. This city is completely overshadowed by Phoenix and there has been no serious talk about placing any professional sports teams here.

Current minor league teams: Sugar Skulls (indoor football) and Roadrunners (hockey)

What would work here? MLS would if could snag it away from Phoenix.

Fresno, California (530,093)

Fresno is halfway between the Bay Area and Los Angeles but 150 miles from San Jose and 200 from Los Angeles. It is not likely they would have any interest from any professional league.

Current Minor League teams: Grizzlies (baseball) and Monsters (hockey)

What would work here? Probably nothing. It would be hard to compete with other cities in California.

Mesa, Arizona (508,958)

Mesa suffers the same problem as Fort Worth as they are less than 20 miles from a big league city. Phoenix with the Suns, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Coyotes are the closest major league teams. Mesa is big with spring training for major league baseball but not much in other pro sports and it is not likely they will get a professional sports franchise.

Current minor league teams: Rattlers (indoor football) and Cubs (baseball)

What would work here? Maybe build an arena to lure one of the teams to Mesa.

Colorado Springs, Colorado (472,688)

The home to the Air Force Academy is about 70 miles from Denver’s professional sports teams. College sports seems to have a strong hold on this city and it doesn’t seem likely that any major sports league would put a team here.

Current minor league teams: Switchbacks FC (soccer) and Rocky Mountain Vibes (baseball)

What would work here? Probably nothing. Denver is close enough and they have a franchise in all the professional sports leagues.

Omaha, Nebraska (468,262)

Omaha gets attention with hosting the College Baseball World Series but no one talks much about anything else. The closest they have been was the Omaha Knighthawks in the United Football League (UFL) which tried to become a feeder league for the NFL. The Knighthawks drew well but the league failed. They also had a brief stint in the NBA as they split the Kansas City-Omaha Kings from 1972-1975.

Current minor league teams: Storm Chasers (baseball), Lancers (hockey) and Beef (indoor football)

What would work here? Maybe the Kings should move back here. The NHL could possibly work here too.

For many of these cities, you can’t say it would never happen. I never thought Oklahoma City would get an NBA team to move there so there is hope for these top cities.

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