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There are currently 25 U. S. states without major sports teams, when major league sports are defined as Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer.
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 Connecticut, Rhode Island, 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 Bobcats both play in Charlotte, North Carolina, both teams cater to fans all over the Carolinas. Similarly, fans of Pittsburgh franchises can be found in West Virginia (mainly in the northern half of the state), Philadelphia fans in New Jersey and Delaware, and Kansas City fans in Kansas.
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. While the chances that Alaska's largest city of Anchorage could attract a major team are virtually zero, due to its relatively small population, unattractive cold climate, and undersized venues, Honolulu has adequate population and large enough venues to host a team. Honolulu used to be home to a WFL franchise, and has been host of the annual NFL Pro Bowl since 1980, except in 2010. Nowadays, most of Hawaii's population tends to support Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay Area teams, and Alaska's population tends to support either Seattle teams or Western Canadian-based teams such as the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers.
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 received approval for their proposed relocation to Oklahoma City and became the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As of 2011, three states have only one major league sports team. All of these teams are in the NBA, which led the other leagues in expansion to fast-growing Western U.S. markets such as Phoenix. The states are Oregon (the Portland Trail Blazers), Oklahoma (Oklahoma City Thunder), and Utah (the Utah Jazz). Each team is healthy enough to remain in its current location, and Utah was viable enough to support the creation of the Real Salt Lake franchise of Major League Soccer. Portland joined MLS in 2011 with the Portland Timbers, the fourth different team in that city to use the Timbers name.
In place of major league teams, college, minor league, and high school teams enjoy quite a lot of attention, such as high school football teams throughout Alabama, the Auburn and Alabama football and basketball teams, Kentucky's college basketball team, and so on.
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 US, behind NFL football. As of the 2011 season, eight states without major sports teams host Sprint Cup races, namely Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Virginia. Of the aforementioned states, four host two annual Sprint Cup races (Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, 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.
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.