The 50 Most Popular Teams in Sports

Zack Pumerantz@z_pumerantzAnalyst IIIDecember 14, 2011

The 50 Most Popular Teams in Sports

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    While there are many beleaguered sports franchises that yearn for a larger fanbase, more media attention and increased exposure, there are those that naturally hog the spotlight.

    Whether they have an illustrious championship resume, a prodigious roster or annual controversy, these teams continue to shine under the eager microscope of sports media.

    Let's take a look at the 50 most popular sports teams in the world.


    **Attention: home page photo courtesy of:

50. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Considering the Flyers' all-time points percentage of .578 (at the end of last season) is second-best in the NHL (behind the Montreal Canadiens' .590), it's easy to see why this team garners such a loyal following.

    While Philly fans are known for their hardcore nature during other sporting venues, the NHL game is a different animal.

    An average of 19,697 crammed, anxious and eager fans is expected to motivate any team.

49. Portland Trailblazers

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    Considering this sleek franchise sold out 814 consecutive home games (the longest sellout streak in American major professional sports) from 1977 to 1995, the team must be at least marginally beloved.

    While the Trail Blazers do only have one championship and dealt with the illegal controversy surrounding past players known as the "Jail Blazers", its recent prosperity has undoubtedly given fans hope of a promising future.

    Their choice of Greg Oden with the first-overall pick of the 2007 Draft, however, is looking disastrous.

48. Ottawa Senators

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    While the original Ottawa Senators won 11 Stanley Cups, the new franchise (founded in 1990) has had the recent success to garner plenty of band-wagon fans. 

    Valued by Forbes Magazine at $201 million as of 2011, the Senators have won four division titles, the Presidents' Trophy (2003), and appeared in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.

    Their consistently loyal fanbase continues to show up, averaging more than 18,000 fans per game since 2005.

47. New Orleans Saints

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    Arguably no team had a greater story in the history of the NFL than the New Orleans Saints in 2010.

    While they are known for going more than a decade before finishing with a .500 record, two decades before having a winning season, and over four decades before finally reaching the Super Bowl, the Saints have now become a high-flying offensive powerhouse that excites fans.

    Following Hurricane Katrina, this team fought behind the "bruised" shoulder of Drew Brees to win Super Bowl XLIV against the Indianapolis Colts and bring New Orleans their first championship.

46. Ohio State Buckeyes Football

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    While recent allegations against prolific signal caller Terrelle Pryor and the firing of legendary head coach Jim Tressel have temporarily tarnished the respected reputation of the Ohio State football program, the Buckeyes are undoubtedly still beloved. 

    With Braxton Miller causing fans to drool and the recent hiring of former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, a return to the national spotlight seems imminent for the Buckeyes.

45. Calgary Flames

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    While the Flames have won two Presidents' Trophies and five division championships, their franchise man Jarome Iginla (leader in games played, goals and points) is likely the main fan attraction.

    Still, their popularity stems ever further. 

    The Calgary franchise owns a Western Hockey League franchise (the Calgary Hitmen) and a National Lacrosse League franchise (the Calgary Roughnecks), and has donated over $32 million to charity throughout southern Alberta since the franchise arrived.

    The community is undoubtedly more than pleased with the Flames. 

44. New York Rangers

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    Seemingly the Knickerbockers of the NHL, the New York Rangers have no problem receiving the spotlight while playing in famed Madison Square Garden arena.

    While 18,171 average fans crowd the stands, a throng of loyal followers clings to their couch with eagerly clenched fists.

    Record rarely seems to ride parallel to attendance in New York.

43. Chicago Blackhawks

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    While this once-depleted team was associated with their 47-season Stanley Cup drought before winning in 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks are now arguably the most popular NHL team.

    With an average attendance of 21,373 in 2011, the feisty young 'Hawks have found the key to an appreciative fanbase...

    ...3.2 goals per game (fourth in the league) makes Chicago games exciting. 

42. Philadelphia Eagles

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    With one of the sexiest cheerleading units in the NFL, the Eagles naturally garner plenty of excited fans.

    As prolific as they have been since the turn of the century, the lacking Philly franchise hasn't won a title since 1960.

    However, their new-and-improved (albeit losing) star-filled roster has brought plenty of excess attention to this franchise.

41. Texas Rangers

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    While back-to-back World Series losses undoubtedly doesn't sit well with fans, the Texas Rangers have undeniably gained a new throng of hardcores who are ready for that title.

    Led by Josh Hamilton and his inspirational story, the prolific Rangers (owned by pitching great Nolan Ryan) took fans as far as they could only to fall short.

    Even so, consecutive Fall Classic appearances certainly doesn't hinder their popularity.

40. Chelsea F.C.

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    While they have been English champions four times, FA Cup winners six times and League Cup winners four times, it's Chelsea's all-time attendance that concurs with a popular reputation.

    The speedy club has maintained the fifth-highest average all-time attendance in English football with 31,621.

39. San Francisco Giants

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    While they have won the most games of any team in the history of American baseball and any North American professional sports team, the new-look Giants are likely garnering a new generation of fans with their passionate nature and dedication to speed and defense.

    With 21 National League pennants and 18 World Series appearances (six World Series Championships), it's no wonder the San Francisco franchise has the most Hall-of-Fame players in professional baseball.

    Once occupying the Polo Grounds as the New York Giants, the team moved to California after the 1957 season. Four Pennants and the 2010 World Series since then has undoubtedly warmed a chilly Bay Area crowd.

38. Atlanta Braves

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    While the Braves are known for winning the NL East division 14 consecutive times from 1991 to 2005, the team undoubtedly garnered a large following from being broadcast on nationally-available TBS until 2008.

    16 divisional titles, 17 National League pennants and three World Series championships is impressive, but being the only MLB franchise to have won the World Series in three different home cities is unheard of.

37. Dallas Mavericks

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    After winning their first Championship last season, the Dallas Mavericks and their once-frustrated fanbase exerted a deep exhale.

    Not only did the team's massive 7' German Dirk Nowitzki excite the league with his unguardable fadeaway, but the Mavericks beat the attention-grabbing Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

    Their colorfully-obnoxious owner and now-proud fanbase are the key ingredients for a stellar encore.

36. St. Louis Cardinals

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    With a National League-high eleven World Series championships, the St. Louis Cardinals might as well have Pinstripes on their uniforms.

    However, with a Fall Classic victory in 2006 and one this past season the Cards have garnered plenty of attention.

    While losing franchise-slugger Albert Pujols and longtime manager Tony La Russa this offseason will certainly break many hearts, the now-expectant fanbase will undoubtedly help them pull through.

35. New England Patriots

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    While the beasts of the AFC East may be despised by many, they continue to garner a significant percentage of league buzz.

    Pretty-boy Tom Brady may be shivering in the cold tundra of New England, but he sure isn't hidden from the camera.

    While the Patriots are known for being the second team in NFL history (after the Dallas Cowboys) to win three Super Bowls in four years, it's Gisele Bundchen who undoubtedly improves the team's respect.

34. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    This holy team has seemingly fed off its recent success rather than a rich past.

    Not only were the Angels AL Western Division champions for three straight seasons (2007-2009), they also attracted more than three million fans in attendance for the regular season for the ninth straight year this past season.

    While signing eventual MVP Vladimir Guerrero was an exciting splash in 2004, free-spending owner Arte Moreno continues to throw money at whomever he pleases these days as well.

    $250 million-man Albert Pujols should keep the Angels fireworks crew busy all season.

33. USC Trojans Football

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    While 11 national championships is quite impressive, having a University-high 472 players taken in the NFL Draft reigns supreme.

    With a capacity of 92,572 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a large attendance is always expected.

    Based in Southern California, this illustrious school continues to recruit the best and produce the most.

32. Liverpool F.C.

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    While the team has won eighteen League titles (second most in English football), Liverpool's hardcore following has garnered just as much attention as the team itself. 

    From charging Liverpool fans causing a wall to collapse over 39 Juventus fans in the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster to Liverpool fans losing their lives in a crush against perimeter fencing in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, these fans have seemingly always been at the core of hardcore.

    The emotional connection is undeniable.

31. Bayern Munich

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    While 22 national titles and 15 cups make Bayern Munich the most successful team in Germany, 2,764 officially-registered fan clubs with 192,160 members makes it the most beloved.

    With Franck Ribery leading the team and the tabloids, fans flock to the stadium.

30. Chicago Bulls

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    While the illustrious Bulls once garnered a following for their six championships in eight years (with two three-peats) during their prolific '90s dynasty, an unsuccessful early 2000s led to a lacking hardwood fanbase.

    But with the recent influx of youth and energy and the prodigious play of reigning MVP Derrick Rose, this team steadily approached 21,791 average fans last season. 

    This potent nucleus has led to a newly playoff-expectant fanbase.

29. Texas Longhorns Football

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    While they were ranked as the seventh-most prestigious college football program since 1936 by ESPN in 2008, it's the Longhorns' all-time winning percentage of .723 that ranks the team as the second-winningest in NCAA history.

    With the likes of Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams and Vince Young exciting Texas fans in past years, it's easy to see why the team has become so illustrious.

    Texas' 2006 Rose Bowl victory over USC was an instant classic.

28. North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball

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    While a .736 all-time winning percentage (second highest all-time behind Kentucky), 2,040 victories, and the most consecutive 20-win seasons (31 seasons from 1970 to 2001) garners North Carolina plenty of respect, its rich roster has undoubtedly brought more reverence to the Tar Heels.

    With the likes of Michael Jordan and James Worthy having starred at UNC, it's easy to see why the team has such a strong following.

27. New York Jets

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    Some may find them obnoxious, but free-speaking coach Rex Ryan and his throng of star-studded sidekicks have brought respect and relevance back to the Big Apple.

    With 78,971 average attendees at MetLife Stadium for every Jets game, Gang Green is rarely away from the spotlight.

    Following their memorable appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks, the New York franchise received plenty of attention.

26. Alabama Crimson Tide Football

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    With 13 national championships claimed, a NCAA-record 58 postseason bowl appearances and 808 victories, Alabama's rich past is obvious.

    However, Bryant-Denny's capacity of 101,821 makes the Crimson Tide's home field the seventh-largest non-racing stadium in the world and the fifth-largest stadium in the United States.

    These fans never disappoint. 

25. A.C. Milan

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    Having been in the elite Serie A since 1929, it's easy to see why A.C. Milan garners so much attention.

    With four world titles–more than any club in the world–Milan works to maintain a prosperous tradition.

    Almost 46,000 fans continue to physically-support this club every game as they undoubtedly yearn for a David Beckham return.

24. Chicago Bears

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    While Daaa Bears hold the NFL records for the most members in the Hall of Fame (27), the most retired jersey numbers (13), and more regular season and overall victories than any other NFL franchise, it's their role on Saturday Night Live that made them immortal.

    Their popularity has seemingly never dwindled.

23. Miami Heat

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    Since entering the league in 1988 the Miami Heat have done nothing but flourish.

    Not only have the famed Heat made the playoffs 15 out of 23 seasons, captured eight division titles, and won the NBA Finals (2006), but they were valued at $425 million as of 2010.

    This chunk of wealth led to the high-profile forming of the "Big Three."

    LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have triple-handedly garnered almost all of the league's media attention.

22. Kentucky Wildcats Basketball

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    Arguably the most decorated basketball program in NCAA history, the Wildcats have the most all-time wins (2,060) and highest all-time winning percentage (.761).

    Kentucky also reigns supreme in total NCAA tournament appearances (51) and is tied with North Carolina in NCAA tournament wins (105).

    Don't be fooled by Rupp Arena's 23,500 capacity, the team continues to rank first in home-game attendance. 

21. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football

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    They may not be affiliated with any conference, but with Notre Dame's home games televised on NBC a widespread following is likely.

    With 11 national championships claimed (second out of all FBS schools) and 96 All-Americans produced (more than any other Football Bowl Subdivision school), the gold-helmeted Fighting Irish continue to build upon their rich tradition.

    The inspirational Rudy undeniably brought plenty of fans and respect to this illustrious school.

20. Boston Celtics

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    While 17 championships (eight in a row from 1959 to 1966) headlines an accomplished resume, the Boston Celtics have always rested in the upper echelon of basketball lore with their record 10 MVP awards. 

    With dominating talent, a diehard fanbase and their involvement in many heated Eastern Conference rivalries, the Celtics continue to simultaneously garner reverence and hate.

19. San Francisco 49ers

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    With five Super Bowl championships during their prolific dynasty, including four in the 1980s, the San Francisco 49ers undeniably gained a strong fanbase that was used to winning.

    Following the departures of Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young and coach Bill Walsh, the team struggled.

    However, the 49ers are tied for second in Super Bowl wins with five and are revered for having won 10 or more games for 16 straight seasons.

    Their popularity must stem from being the only team in NFL history to appear in more than one Super Bowl without ever losing.

    Jim Harbaugh is now leading the Bay Area back to stardom.

18. Duke Blue Devils Basketball

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    As the fourth-winningest men's basketball program of all-time with four NCAA championships and an NCAA-best .750 tournament winning percentage, it's easy to see why the consistent Blue Devils are loved by some and hated by many.

    Coached by the illustrious Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has produced 71 NBA players and 11 National Players of the Year.

    The large fanbase undoubtedly remembers the team's 200 consecutive appearances in the AP Top 25 from 1996 to 2007 (second-longest streak in history).

17. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Known for their vicious rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, the Maple Leafs are respected by fans for their 13 championships (second to the Canadiens' 24).

    However, as the only Original Six team that has not won the Cup since the 1967 NHL expansion, fans are naturally a bit more than eager.

    With an average of 19,697 attendees and a team worth of $521 million (NHL-high), this team continues to fight for 21st-century success.

16. New York Knicks

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    With a dedicated fanbase and a superfluous amount of media attention, the New York Knicks have become one of only two teams of the original National Basketball Association still located in its original city (Boston Celtics).

    While the team has only made the playoffs twice in the past decade, their placement in the heart of what some call the "Mecca of basketball" gives the team plenty of attention and many chances to shine.

    Wins and losses have never seemed to affect a sellout crowd, as celebrities continue to flood the sidelines.

15. Montreal Canadiens

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    Not only was this respected franchise founded in 1909 (longest continuously operating professional ice hockey team and the only existing NHL club to predate the NHL), but the Canadiens are the only remaining team of the four major sports to be based in the province of Quebec.

    With 24 Stanley Cups (most all-time) and 21,273 average attendees, the Montreal franchise will seemingly never lose its respected reputation. 

    Model Misa Campo (pictured) is undeniably all they need.

14. F.C. Barcelona

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    Not only has FC Barcelona won the most domestic trophies in Spanish football, but they're 99,354 capacity at Camp Nou insinuates a large attendance every game.

    Fan loyalty is obvious and their is unmistakable.

    In 2009, Barcelona became the first Spanish team to win six out of six competitions in a single year.

13. Philadelphia Phillies

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    As the oldest continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional American sports since 1883, the Philadelphia Phillies have a strong collection of relentless diehards.

    While the team did struggle at the turn of the century, their five straight division titles since 2007 (World Series victory in 2008) has given their once-deprived fanbase plenty of reasons to smile.

    Considering the Phillies have raised $10 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research (Lou Gehrig's disease) in their history, it's safe to say the community is more than appreciative.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    This team's illustrious mustard-covered past has garnered a dedicated and appreciative fanbase.

    While the Steelers have won more Super Bowl titles (six), won more AFC Championship Games (eight), and hosted more conference championship games (11) than any other AFC or NFC team, it's their consistently-fearless defensive presence that has continued to scare opponents and excite Pittsburgh fans.

11. Arsenal F.C.

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    Don't let Emirates Stadium's unspectacular 60,361 capacity fool you, this team has a stellar following.

    While 13 First Division and Premier League titles and 10 FA Cups garners plenty of respect, Arsenal's role as the third most valuable Association football club in the world as of 2010 ($1.2 billion) undoubtedly brings the most attention.

    Money continues to present opportunity.

10. New York Giants

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    While the New York Giants rank third among all NFL franchises with seven NFL titles and are a part of arguably the most fierce rivalry in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Big Blue has garnered appreciation for their ground-and-pound attack and consistently-prolific defense since their inception in 1925.

    Their 79,310 average attendance continues to set fashion trends.

9. Detroit Red Wings

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    With the most Stanley Cups (11) of any United States-based NHL franchise, it's easy to see why the sports media refers to Detroit as "Hockeytown."

    Missing the playoffs only four times between 1933 and 1966 and making it the past 20 years is sure to garner an impressed fanbase. This is the longest streak of postseason appearances for any United States sports franchise.

8. Boston Red Sox

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    While their popularity is undeniable, considering their almost-32,000 average road attendance and eight straight years of sellouts at Fenway Park, an angry aura among Red Sox fans was likely prosperous between the championship-bereft years of 1918 and 2004.

    With the team's World Series victories in 2004 and 2007, the Red Sox fanbase was more than relieved.

    This year's collapse may have brought animosity from the media, but the loyal fanbase will never fade.

7. Michigan Wolverines Football

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    Not only do the Wolverines have the most all-time wins and the highest winning percentage in college football history, but they are known for their astonishing attendance numbers at Michigan stadium, averaging far more fans than the average NFL game.

    These are more than just routine battles on the gridiron; these games are spectacles.

6. Dallas Cowboys

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    While their recent lack of success has led to murky optimism, the Cowboys have the numbers to satisfy their popularity.

    Their streak of 160 sold-out regular and post-season games (beginning in 1990) included 79 straight sellouts at their home stadium and 81 straight sell-outs on the road.

    They may be the wealthiest team in the NFL ($269 million in annual revenue), but the Dallas franchise will have no problem keeping fans around with their down-to-the-wire games and not-quite-there performances. 

5. Green Bay Packers

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    While they clearly have the sexiest fans in the NFL, it's the Packers' star-studded roster and rich past that has helped put the team in the upper echelon of league popularity.

    With Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews both among the top of the league in jerseys sold, it's easy to see why bandwagon fans are quickly jumping aboard.

    13 league championships (more than any other team in the NFL) doesn't hurt their likability either.

4. Real Madrid

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    With a record 31 La Liga titles and 70,736 average attendees, this illustrious club continues to have high expectations resting on its players' shoulders.

    While goalie Iker Casillas has certainly helped matters by dating sexy Spanish reporter Sara Carbonero, Cristiano Ronaldo's consistently-rotating array of conquests has continued to entertain his fanbase the most.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

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    While the acclaimed Lakers hold the record for NBA's longest winning streak (33), have 16 Hall of Famers and have had four MVPs, it's their eye-popping performances in the clutch that have earned the team the most respect.

    The accomplished Los Angeles franchise, never bereft of superstars, has won 17 championships (16 in the NBA) and continues to intimidate opponents with bright colors and stellar play.

    A career in the spotlight following basketball seems absolute for any former Laker.

2. New York Yankees

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    While a record 27 World Series championships and 40 American League pennants speak for themselves, it's the Pinstripes mindset that has led to worldwide popularity and an enthusiastic fanbase.

    Following former owner George Steinbrenner and his free-spending aura, the team's fans expect only the best.

    While it's become clear that money doesn't buy championships, the New York Yankees continue to dominate the American League en route to an annual playoff appearance.

    With 43 players and 11 managers having been inducted into the Hall of Fame, their history continues to conquer their future. 

1. Manchester United

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    As the first English football club to win the European Cup, Manchester United naturally garnered plenty of attention.

    Current manager Sir Alex Ferguson has helped preserve the early stardom by winning 37 major honors since taking over in 1986.

    While their record 19 league titles, 11 FA Cups, four League Cups and 19 FA Community Shields are quite commendable, their Forbes magazine-high $1.86 billion worth speaks the loudest with their popularity.