In early November, WalletHub, a financial site that creates unique studies based on local businesses, highlighted the state of Pennsylvania for its elevated sports offerings. To do this, the study focused on 392 cities to poll how many adults watch which sports content, then tabulated the results.
Boston took first place, Los Angeles took second, and New York City took third. These rankings aren’t surprising—Boston is a sports-crazy city, while the other two are simply the largest sports markets in the US. However, in fourth and fifth place came Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Though lacking the same population as places like Seattle, Houston, or Miami, both of Pennsylvania’s biggest cities outperformed other capitals in terms of sports interest. Due to this, WalletHub named the state as the best for sports fans based on traditions, team success, media support, and fan knowledge.
For diehard football, basketball, and baseball fans in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, this news likely comes as no surprise—people love their sports. Even better, the state is home to one of the US’s leading betting markets, which has been active since 2018 shortly after the PASPA law was repealed.
This means travelers can wager on events while passing through Philadelphia or Pennsylvania. Though Pennsylvania online sports betting has become the most convenient way to wager on sports, major cities and casino locations also play home to in-person sportsbooks.
However, when taking a more granular look at each city, is Pittsburgh really the clear winner, as per Wallethub’s rankings? Where should a sports fan travel if forced to choose between both cities?
Philadelphia: A Fair Spread Across Each Sport
Philadelphia may have a reputation for being a sports-friendly city, but its local sports fans aren’t always cast in the best light—especially after their recent Super Bowl win. However, it’s not just WalletHub that’s cast its attention toward the City of Brotherly Love.
Back in 2020, a Forbes poll ranked Philadelphia second in the nation (behind Boston) in terms of elite sports cities. Forbes relied on stadium attendance, TV ratings, social media reach to quantify fan participation in the city. Songs like ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ and even a lack of cheating scandals were also counted toward the city’s ranking.
Aside from being able to prove through culture and statistics that Philly natives are obsessed with sports, there’s also the sheer number of successful franchises in the city. Aside from the NFL’s Eagles, the NHL’s Flyers, the MLB’s Phillies, and the NBA’s 76ers, the city is also home to one of the most popular and long-standing MLS franchises: the Philadelphia Union.
Pittsburgh: Football Heaven
So, how did Pittsburgh end up out-performing Philadelphia in WalletHub rankings? One of the city’s biggest assets is its interest in American football—both the NFL and the NCAA. In terms of Lombardi Trophies, the Steelers are tied with the most Super Bowl championships by hometown, with six titles.
Aside from their domination in the NFL (even if it is a few decades old at this point), the city is also home to one of the fanatical NCAA fanbases. The WalletHub metrics didn’t only take into account professional sports, but also counted DI collegiate competitions.
Pittsburgh is home to Penn State, which has one of the most engaged fanbases in all of college football—in fact, they tied with Clemson in the WalletHub study in terms of dedication from fans. Pair this with the hyper-engaged Steelers fans, and Pittsburgh becomes one of the biggest football cities in the country.
The Battle of Pennsylvania
Most interstate professional sports rivalries are hotly contested. For example, the faceoffs between the Eagles and Steelers have their own nickname: the Battle of Pennsylvania. These feuds date back generations and are an ingrained part of the statewide sports experience.
In fact, this is where the rubber hits the road. While Boston, LA, and New York all have active and dedicated fanbases, their in-state and cross-city rivalries also tend to pale in comparison to others. However, like fighting siblings, these diehard feuds tend to fall by the wayside anytime a greater enemy steps into view—like, say the Bruins or the Patriots.
The conclusion for travelers? Either city will deliver on great sports experiences, but if you’re looking for an American football event to remember, Pittsburgh is the better choice.