Since 2015, three different NFL franchises — the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders — have moved to a new city. Though it has become rarer in recent years, this is not an uncommon occurrence. There have been over 150 incidents of major American pro sports franchises changing cities or folding operations, leaving behind thousands of disappointed fans in dozens of cities. However, some places have suffered the loss of a beloved team much more frequently than others.
To determine the cities that have lost the most teams, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the Sports Reference family of sites to review the histories of major American pro sports leagues — the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, AFL, WHA, and ABA — and tally the number of pro sports franchises from each city that either relocated or folded. Teams were associated with the major metro area closest to their home stadium.
A large share of teams that moved or ceased operations did so early in the 20th century, struggling with the financial hardship of the Great Depression, among other issues. In those days, before lucrative TV broadcasting deals and league revenue sharing, even some of the most successful franchises became insolvent and ceased operations. These are the greatest pro sports teams that have disappeared.
Some teams began in small cities like Fort Wayne, Indiana, or Decatur, Illinois, and needed a larger fan base than those places could provide. In 2020, just about every major sports franchise was located in a large metro area, with many large cities hosting multiple franchises, giving their residents a team to cheer for year-round. These are the best cities for sports fans.