Sports in the San Francisco Bay Area

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The San Francisco Bay Area, consisting of nine California counties bordering on the San Francisco Bay, and the major cities of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, hosts seven major league sports franchises.

The Raiders against the 49ers at McAfee Coliseum in 2008

Major league teams[edit]

Club Sport Bay Area
League Venue
Oakland Raiders Football 1960* National Football League Coliseum
San Francisco 49ers Football 1946 National Football League Levi's Stadium
Oakland Athletics Baseball 1968 Major League Baseball Coliseum
San Francisco Giants Baseball 1958 Major League Baseball AT&T Park
Golden State Warriors Basketball 1962 National Basketball Association Oracle Arena
San Jose Sharks Hockey 1991 National Hockey League SAP Center at San Jose
San Jose Earthquakes Soccer 1996 Major League Soccer Avaya Stadium


  • The Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982–1994.

American football[edit]

The Bay Area is home to two National Football League teams, the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, who play at Levi's Stadium[1] and Coliseum,[2] respectively. The 49ers have won five Super Bowls (XVI,[3] XIX,[4] XXIII,[5] XXIV,[6] XXIX[7]), while the Raiders have won three (XI,[8] XV,[9] XVIII[10]), while having lost two (II,[11] XXXVII[12])

From 1995-2008, as well as since 2011, the Bay had the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League, who currently play at the SAP Center at San Jose.[13] The SaberCats have won 3 ArenaBowls (XVI,[14] XVIII,[15] XXI[16]), and have lost in another (XXII[17]).


San Francisco is home to the San Francisco Giants, while Oakland has the Oakland Athletics. The Giants play at AT&T Park,[18] and the A's share Coliseum with the Raiders.[19] The A's have considered relocating to San Jose, California,[20] and moving into Cisco Field by 2017.[21] The Giants have won eight World Series titles, while Oakland has won nine. The 1989 World Series was known as the "Earthquake Series", "Bay Bridge Series", "BART Series", and "Battle of the Bay," as both teams played against each other, and Oakland swept the Giants in a 4-game series.[22] However, the series is probably best known for what happened on the day of Game 3, when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake struck the area.[23][24]

In 2012 San Francisco was ranked #1 among America's Best Baseball cities. The study examined which U.S. metro areas have produced the most Major Leaguers since 1920.[25]

San Rafael is home to the San Rafael Pacifics, an independent minor league baseball team, who play in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. The Pacifics play in 1,200 seat Albert Park.


Oakland is home of the Golden State Warriors, who currently play at the Oracle Arena.[26] The Warriors originally played in Philadelphia, but relocated to San Francisco in 1962 and then to Oakland in 1971. The Warriors are slated to return to San Francisco, where a new arena in the Mission Bay district is in the planning stages, in time for the 2018-19 NBA season. The Warriors have won two NBA Finals since their relocation (1975,[27] and 2015).

San Francisco Pro-Am Basketball League is an important summer league venue for aspiring players to be discovered by talent scouts.[citation needed] Games are held at the 4,000 seat Kezar Pavilion. Players from all levels participate, with regular appearances by off season NBA professionals.[28]

Ice hockey[edit]

San Jose currently hosts the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League. The Sharks currently play at the SAP Center at San Jose.[13] The Sharks began play in 1991, playing their first two seasons at the Cow Palace before moving to their current home in 1993. Despite appearing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in all but six seasons of their existence (as of the 2014-15 season), the Sharks have never appeared in a Stanley Cup.

In 2015, the Sharks American Hockey League affiliate team, the Worcester Sharks, will become the San Jose Barracuda and share the SAP Center at San Jose.


Beginning in 1996, the San Jose Earthquakes, then known as the San Jose Clash, competed in Major League Soccer, and became the Earthquakes in 1999. The Quakes won MLS Cup 2001 against the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1,[29] as well as MLS Cup 2003 against the Chicago Fire 4-2. The Quakes then moved to Houston in 2005, and became the Houston Dynamo,[30] but in a fashion similar to the Cleveland Browns move,[31] the Earthquakes name and history stayed in San Jose for a future team. In 2008, the current incarnation of the Earthquakes made its return[32] and subsequently played seven seasons at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara. In March 2015, the Earthquakes opened Avaya Stadium across from San Jose International Airport.[33]

Amateur men's soccer has been played in San Francisco since 1902 through the San Francisco Soccer Football League.[34] Over 40 teams in 4 divisions play throughout the city between the months of March and November. Premier Division games are played at the 3,500 seat Boxer Stadium. Amateur women's soccer is played on over 30 teams in the Golden Gate Women's Soccer League.[35]

Rugby Union/League[edit]

San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby is a rugby union team that competes in the Rugby Super League. They will also have a rugby league team in the WAMNRL which began play in summer 2011.[36]

In the sevens variant of rugby union, the Bay Area will host the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens at Avaya Stadium and AT&T Park.

College sports[edit]

The Bay Area is also well represented in college sports. Six area universities are members of NCAA Division I, the highest level of college sports in the country. Three have football teams and three do not.

All three football-playing schools in the Bay Area are in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of NCAA college football. The California Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinal compete in the Pacific-12 Conference, and the San Jose State Spartans compete in the Mountain West Conference.[37] The Cardinal and Golden Bears are intense rivals, with their football teams competing annually in the Big Game for the Stanford Axe.[38] One of the most famous games in the rivalry is the 1982 edition, when the Golden Bears defeated the Cardinal on a last-second return kickoff known as "The Play".[39]

The three non-football Division I programs in the Bay Area are the San Francisco Dons, located in the city of San Francisco; the Saint Mary's Gaels, from Moraga in the East Bay; and the Santa Clara Broncos, located in Santa Clara. All three are charter members of the West Coast Conference, and consider each other major rivals.

Other sports[edit]

The Bay Area was the host for the 2013 America's Cup. The Bay Area has a leading and innovative alternative, outdoor and action sports culture. Examples include mountain biking, Alcatraz triathlon, skate boarding/Thrasher Magazine, and surfing at well known breaks such as Steamer Lane, Mavericks, Ocean Beach and Bodega Bay.

TPC Stonebrae is a private golf club that hosts the TPC Stonebrae Championship, part of the Tour since 2009.

Defunct or relocated teams[edit]

The Bay Area had a United Football League team in 2009 named the California Redwoods, who played at AT&T Park[18] and Spartan Stadium, though the Redwoods moved to Sacramento in 2010.[40]

San Jose had a women's basketball team from 2005-2006 in the National Women's Basketball League called the San Jose Spiders.[41]


Before the Sharks, the Bay Area had the California Golden Seals, who had been previously named the California Seals and the Oakland Seals. The Seals came into existence in the 1967 NHL expansion.[42] The Seals played at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Arena (now Oracle Arena). The Seals later became the Cleveland Barons in 1976 and then merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978 (who in turn later became the Dallas Stars).[43] The Golden Seals/Barons franchise is notable as the last franchise in North America's four major leagues to permanently cease operations.

The Sharks can be viewed as an effective successor of the Golden Seals/Barons. In the late 1980s, North Stars majority owners Gordon and George Gund tried to move the team to the Bay Area, but were rebuffed by the NHL. In the meantime, a group led by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin sought to bring an expansion team to the Bay Area. The league then brokered a deal which effectively unwound the Barons–North Stars merger. The Gunds sold their share of the North Stars to Baldwin's group in exchange for an expansion team in the Bay Area. The Gunds would be allowed to take half of the North Stars' roster with them, and both the North Stars and the future Sharks would participate as equals in an expansion draft.

For one season (1995–96), it was home to the San Francisco Spiders of the International Hockey League.[44]

On September 20, 2011, the San Francisco Bulls were founded as an expansion team in the ECHL. Beginning play in 2012, the team (based at the Cow Palace) was the farm team of the NHLs San Jose Sharks before folding mid-season on January 27, 2014.[45]


Before the existence of the current San Jose Earthquakes of MLS, a separate San Jose Earthquakes played for the original North American Soccer League, Major Indoor Soccer League, and the Western Soccer Alliance.[46] After they folded, the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks played for the WSA. Eventually, the Blawkhawks became the San Jose Hawks, and folded in 1993.

San Jose Grizzlies were a professional indoor soccer team based in San Jose, California. The team was founded in 1993 as a member of the Continental Indoor Soccer League. After playing in the 1994 and 1995 CISL seasons, the Grizzlies folded following the 1995 season. The team played at San Jose Arena.[47]

FC Gold Pride was a charter member of Women's Professional Soccer, playing alongside the Earthquakes in the league's inaugural 2009 season before moving to Hayward for 2010. Led by Brazilian star Marta, the team had a championship season in 2010, but folded after the season.[48] WPS itself played only one more season before folding.

Stadium gallery[edit]


The 18th hole at the Olympic Club.

With an ideal climate for outdoor activities, San Francisco has ample resources and opportunities for amateur and participatory sports and recreation. There are more than 200 miles (320 km) of bicycle paths, lanes and bike routes in the city,[49] and the Embarcadero and Marina Green are favored sites for skateboarding. Extensive public tennis facilities are available in Golden Gate Park and Dolores Park, as well as at smaller neighborhood courts throughout the city. San Francisco residents have often ranked among the fittest in the U.S.[50] Golden Gate Park has miles of paved and unpaved running trails as well as a golf course and disc golf course.

Boating, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing are among the popular activities on San Francisco Bay, and the city maintains a yacht harbor in the Marina District. The St. Francis Yacht Club and Golden Gate Yacht Club are located in the Marina Harbor.[51][52] The South Beach Yacht Club is located next to AT&T Park and Pier 39 has an extensive marina.[53][54]

Historic Aquatic Park located along the northern San Francisco shore hosts two swimming and rowing clubs.[55][56] The South End Rowing Club, established in 1873, and the Dolphin Club maintain a friendly rivalry between members. Swimmers can be seen daily braving the typically cold bay waters.[citation needed]


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