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There are currently 24 U.S. states without major sports teams, when major league sports are defined as Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL).
The reasons for this are mixed. Often it is because of a lack of population density or size in a single city or even an entire state. The lack of density hurts television contracts, advertising, ticket sales, attendance, and city/state funds for the required facilities and salaries of the players. In many cases a "home" fan base may span several states, as with the New England Patriots (and, though not in name, the Boston Red Sox) and Carolina Panthers. Even though the Patriots and the Red Sox both play in the Boston area, each team has many fans in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. (The Patriots' stadium is actually closer to downtown Providence than it is to downtown Boston.) And while the Panthers and the NBA's Charlotte Hornets both play in Charlotte, North Carolina, both teams have fans from all over the Carolinas. Similarly, fans of Pittsburgh franchises can be found in West Virginia (mainly in the northern half of the state), fans of Philadelphia teams can be found in Delaware and New Jersey, fans of Kansas City teams can be found in Kansas, and fans of Washington, D.C. teams can be found in Virginia.
In place of major league teams, collegiate, minor league, and high school teams enjoy quite a lot of attention, such as high school football teams in many states lacking a professional franchise, the Auburn and Alabama football teams in Alabama, and the Louisville and Kentucky basketball teams in Kentucky.
Of course, many states without professional team sports still boast celebrated sports institutions (e.g., the Kentucky Derby in Kentucky, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii). This list also does not take into account NASCAR — the second-most watched spectator sport in the U.S., behind NFL football. As of the 2014 season, seven states without major professional sports teams host Sprint Cup races: Alabama (Talladega), Delaware (Dover), Kentucky (Sparta), Nevada (Las Vegas), New Hampshire (Loudon), South Carolina (Darlington), and Virginia (Martinsville and Richmond). Of the aforementioned states, three host two annual Sprint Cup races (Alabama, Delaware, New Hampshire), and Virginia hosts four races.
NOTE: The asterisk (*) denotes a state that used to have a team in one of the major leagues; see below.
Alaska and Hawaii have never had a major league team, mainly due to their distance from the U.S. mainland, and that the states were admitted to the union in 1959, when most of the major sports leagues were emerging leagues. Alaska's largest metropolitan area of Anchorage would be a challenging location for a major league team, due to its relatively small population (380,000), undersized venues, distance from other teams, and cold climate. Alaska's population tends to support either Seattle teams or Western Canadian-based teams such as the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers.
The Honolulu metropolitan area has adequate population (950,000) and large enough venues to host a team (Aloha Stadium seats 50,000). Honolulu used to be home to a World Football League franchise in 1974 and 1975, and has been host of the annual NFL Pro Bowl since 1980, except in 2010. Most of Hawaii's population tends to support Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay Area teams.
With the Thunder now giving Oklahoma a permanent team, the latest addition is Connecticut, after the NHL's Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997. Though fan support for a return to Hartford is big, issues have risen over arena quality, cash, and lack of interest from potential team owners. The Connecticut Sun WNBA team play in the state, but the WNBA is not considered a major sports league.
The latest addition to this list had previously been Oklahoma, since the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA ended their temporary stay in Oklahoma City brought on by the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The Hornets played 36 of 41 home games in Oklahoma City during the 2005-06 NBA season, and played 35 home games in both Oklahoma City and nearby Norman in the 2006-07 season. The franchise returned to New Orleans permanently for the 2007-08 season, leaving Oklahoma without a major team. However, Oklahoma was removed from the list once again when for the 2008-09 season, the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kansas was on this list until 2011, when the Major League Soccer franchise Sporting Kansas City (formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards) moved from Kansas City, Missouri to Kansas City, Kansas and began playing home games at Livestrong Sporting Park, a soccer-specific stadium.
Sioux City was once the home of the Sioux City Cornhuskers of the Western League. While not considered a major team or league, they are considered one of the earliest incarnations of the present day Chicago White Sox.