10 Best International Sports Cities

Giancarlo Ferrari-King@@GiancarloKingFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2015

10 Best International Sports Cities

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    Rob Griffith/Associated Press

    Sports are a phenomenon that has no boundaries. We know that. Outside of the United States of America, there's a whole world filled with great athletes, teams and culture.

    With that in mind, get readywe're about to go global. Grab your passport and let's all check out the 10 best sports cities in the world outside of the United States.

    The yardstick we used to construct this list came down to historical importance, quality of teams that play in each city and, of course, the fans.

    Join us on an international journey honoring some of the best sports cities on this planet we call Earth.

Barcelona

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    Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

    If you want to visit one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, start booking your ticket to Barcelona now.

    A Spanish city daubed in culture, Barcelona is most famous for its soccer club, FC Barcelona. One of the most decorated teams in the history of La Liga, FC Barcelona has always been a hotbed for elite talent.

    Over the years, savvy players like Ronaldinho, Diego Maradona, Neymar and Lionel Messi have all worn the FC Barcelona cloth proud.

    Besides soccer, the city also played host to the 1992 Olympic Games. It was the year of the Dream Team among other fantastic events. And unlike most host cities after the Olympics pack up and leave town, Barcelona was able to take all of the money they spent on the games and turn it into a positive, per Shira Springer of The Boston Globe.

    The beauty, the ingenuity and the endearing fans are three reasons why Barcelona is truly one of the greatest sports cities in the world.

London

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    Strictly speaking from a sports viewpoint, when you think about London, you think about all of the fabulous soccer that's been played over there.

    A driving locational force behind the Premier League, London has produced a bevy of clubs that compete for the title each and every year. Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers, Tottenham and West Ham make up the main clubs that play in the London area.

    Each team has rabid fans that need soccer to quench their thirst for sports.

    London also has hosted the Olympic Games three times, the most recent being in 2012. It's a city that thrives mainly on soccer culture but also has dabbled in hosting NFL games. The league plays there on a recurring basis, dating back to 2007.

    From boxing to soccer and beyond, the honorable city of London deserves a spot on this list.

Tokyo

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    Toru Takahashi/Associated Press

    Tokyo is a city that's not only stunning to look at but also a great sports town.

    Baseball is a staple for the people of this city. With five clubs in the Tokyo area, per JapanBall.com, this metropolis thrives on the long ball.

    The famous Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, Saitama Seibu Lions, Chiba Lotte Marines, Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Yokohama DeNA Baystars are all around, driving fans into stadiums each and every season.

    As fans of baseball in America will tell you, some of the best players in the MLB have come from Nippon Professional Baseball—Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish all have NPB roots.

    Since hosting the Olympics is such a key part to a city's sports vitality, it should be noted that Tokyo has hosted the Games three times already (with a fourth scheduled for 2020).

    Tokyo is a city that consumes. The neon lights and rapid pace it operates at is a perfect brew for sports fans to sip on. Baseball may be the biggest attraction, but Tokyo is so much more than that.

Melbourne

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    Vincent Thian/Associated Press

    Crashing waves and fierce competition make up the perfect recipe for sports nirvana in Melbourne, Australia.

    Unlike other of cities featured on this list, Melbourne plays home to some sporting events you wouldn't normally consider to be mainstream. The Visit Victoria website details some of those major happenings.

    Most of us understand that tennis' Australian Open is played here, but things like the Australian Grand Prix and the ICC Cricket World Cup are also events that people in America may not be aware of.

    Melbourne's beauty and the extensive traditions that make up the city are two impressive qualities. On top of that, we can't forget about its bodacious surfing culture.

    As a country, Australia is considered one of the top places in the world to catch a few waves. Melbourne is no exception to that rule.

    When you fuse everything we've talked about together, it becomes clear that this city is easily one of the best sports towns around.

Beijing

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    ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS/Associated Press

    As the country of China has grown into one of the greatest economic powers on the planet, the evolution of sports has followed suit.

    Capped off by the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China made sure that it left no stone unturned from a preparation and execution point of view. Thanks to the reporting of NPR's Linton Weeks and Uri Berliner, we now know that the country spent an estimated $100 million on the opening ceremony that year.

    That projected sum of money was fitting when you consider all of the magical stuff we saw unfold on TV.

    Basketball is another sport that has become popular in China. Loads of ex-NBA players have flown overseas to collect bulky paychecks. In Beijing, the Beijing Ducks are the pride of the city.

    Led by former NBA guard Stephon Marbury, this team competes each season in the Chinese Basketball Association—for those who are interested, the Los Angeles Times staff wrote a compelling piece detailing how Marbury turned into a superstar while in Beijing.

    Sports are a big deal in Beijing, so much so that the city also is responsible for Beijing Sport University. It is a school that, per its website, is considered to be "China's best athletics school."

Berlin

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Berlin has plenty of reasons to be on this list. Not only does the city host the Bundesliga soccer club Hertha BSC, but the German conurbation is also responsible for the Bundesliga 2 team, FC Union Berlin.

    Outside of the world of soccer, Berlin is a city that loves its hockey and basketball.

    On the hardwood, Alba Berlin is the team to watch. Part of the Euroleague, Alba Berlin won the Korac Cup in 1995 to go along with eight German National Cup victories, according to the official Euroleague website.

    Being one of the most famous cities in Europe, Berlin has been able to thrive with its sports culture. No matter the sport, it has produced good teams that have done right by the city.

Rio De Janeiro

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    The 2014 FIFA World Cup was proof that Brazil is one of the most vibrant countries around. Sweeping exterior shots from the crew at ESPN revealed breathtaking views of Rio de Janeiro, one city that was a vital part of the World Cup.

    You can enjoy a ton of exciting cities while you travel the countryside of Brazil. But there's something unique about Rio de Janeiro that makes it an uncommon place.

    Like a majority of South American countries, soccer is a critical part of Brazilian culture. The national team has won five World Cups and birthed some of the greatest players in the history of the game.

    Playing its role, five professional clubs call Rio de Janerio home. Despite a serious following for that sport, volleyball has actually become one of the most popular sports in the city.

    Lisa Flueckiger, a contributor to The Rio Times, talked about the local volleyball scene in Rio de Janeiro.

    "Brazil is not only dominating the sport professionally, as their many Olympic Medals show, but volleyball is one of the most popular sports among amateur players, especially in Rio where a beach is never too far away," she writes.

    It has to be a great feeling soaking in the nice weather and enjoying a game or two of beach volleyball.

    Few cities have the prowess and allure of Rio de Janerio. With a culture packed full of athletic endeavors, putting this city on this list was an easy choice.

Manchester

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    For nearly 30 years, Manchester, England, could have been called "Alex Ferguson country." The iconic Manchester United manager guided the Reds to greatness for nearly three decades.

    The marriage between Ferguson and Manchester United resulted in 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cup victories, four League Cup wins and two Champions League crowns.

    Though Ferguson is now gone, what he did for the city of Manchester will never be forgotten. His work along with some of the top soccer players in the world turned this city into one of the top sports towns around.

    Manchester will forever be a sea of red. The electric vibes of Old Trafford—Manchester United's stadium—can rival any place in the universe.

    Not to be outdone by United, Manchester City has also become a dominant club in its own right. Surpassing the Reds as of the late, the club has now won the Premier League four times since 1936, per City's official website.

    The feuding culture that exists between City and United has turned Manchester into one of the greatest sports towns on Earth.

Toronto

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    Don't get it twisted: Toronto is an ice hockey town. The Maple Leafs are the pride and joy of this wonderful city.

    The team has won 13 Stanley Cups over the years and has done it with grit and determination. As popular as the Maple Leafs are, let's not forget that Toronto also has a pretty good basketball franchise as well.

    The Raptors have made it into the NBA playoffs six times since they moved here in 1995 and right now are on pace for a seventh appearance, per Basketball-Reference.com.

    Even without an NBA title to fall back on, the Raptors will always be revered for having legendary shooting guard Vince Carter. If you recall, Carter won the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest while wearing a Raptors uniform.

    With the Blue Jays out there covering the whole baseball spectrum and Toronto FC as part of the MLS, this city has plenty of sports goodness going on all year around.

Sydney

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    Rob Griffith/Associated Press

    Even before Sydney hosted the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, the city was already one of the top sports destinations.

    Soccer, rugby, cricket and basketball all run rampant Down Under. Though rugby and cricket may not be the hottest ticket in America, Sydney is all about that way of life.

    The gorgeous landscapes and opulent sports culture that has formed in Sydney over the years has turned it into a can't-miss city. Whether you go to watch Sydney FC play soccer or stick around and check out some National Basketball League action, odds are you won't be disappointed with everything Sydney has to offer.

    Unless noted otherwise, all game scores, stats and information courtesy of ESPN.com.

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