Popular Sports in El Salvador | Top List & Famous Local Athletes

The smallest country in Central America, El Salvador, has always been passionate about sports. The sporting industry in El Salvador is expanding rapidly with popular sports like football and basketball. Delve deeper into this article to get an overview of the popular sports in El Salvador and a list of top local athletes with their remarkable achievements.  

The Sporting Culture of El Salvador

Unforgettable wins in various leagues and championships mark the long and proud sporting history of El Salvador. The nation shows great caliber in many traditional and regional sports. With a diverse sports scene, El Salvador hosts several traditional or annual sports events, including the following:

  1. The Salvadoran National Soccer League
  2. The Salvadoran National Basketball League 
  3. The Salvadoran National Baseball League
  4. The Salvadoran National Volleyball League
  5. The Salvadoran National Swimming Championships

The rich sporting culture in El Salvador also makes sports betting popular in the country. The activities have gained significant popularity in recent years, with a growing number of enthusiasts turning to a full catalog of online platforms to engage.

These platforms provide a convenient and accessible way for Salvadorans to wager on their favorite sports events, from soccer to baseball and beyond. The allure of sports betting lies in the thrill of predicting game outcomes and potentially winning substantial rewards.

While the regulatory landscape for sports betting in El Salvador continues to evolve, it’s clear that the enthusiasm for this form of entertainment is here to stay, offering both avid sports fans and casual observers an engaging way to enjoy the games they love while adding an extra layer of excitement to the experience.

The Most Popular Sports in El Salvador

The highly popular sports in the Central American nation include the following:

1. Football

Source: Zac Frith

The nation has a strong fascination for football. El Salvador managed to qualify for the 1970 FIFA World Cup by defeating Honduras. The rivalry between the El Salvador and Honduras national teams was so intense that it culminated in a full-fledged war. Check out this video to learn more about the “Football War”: 

The national football team again made it to the FIFA World Cup in 1982 and finished in the 24th position. 

The top goalscorers from El Salvador include:

Player Number of Goals
Raúl Díaz Arce 39
Rodolfo Zelaya 23
Jorge “Mágico” González 21


2. Basketball

Source: Markus Spiske

SEE ALSO: Living in El Salvador: Top Reasons for Moving to El Salvador

Basketball is another widely appreciated sport in El Salvador. The national basketball team became a part of FIBA in 1956. The national team reached the second round of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualification. In 1959, the Salvadoran basketball team had a historic win in the Central American and Caribbean Games. 

They also showed massive potential in the 2013 COCABA championship by acquiring the second position. James Valladres, Anthony Reyes, and Roberto Martinez are some of the most famous basketball players in the nation. 

3. Tennis

Source: Cottonbro studio

Tennis is usually seen as a sport for the upper and upper-middle classes. Therefore, tennis is often overlooked in the poor nation of El Salvador. 

Rafael Arévalo is the most popular tennis player from the country who achieved international fame. He continues to be an Olympic player. He also plays for the Davis Cup with his brother, Marcelo Arévalo. 

4. Swimming

Source: mali maeder

The amazing beaches of El Salvador make swimming a popular sport in the country. Talented swimmers in the country participate in various international competitions, including the Olympics. But El Salvador still hasn’t managed to win an Olympic medal in swimming. A few popular swimmers from El Salvador include Pamela Benítez, Friedrich Jokisch, and Ernesto Durón.   

5. Baseball

Source: Pixabay

El Salvador is a part of COPABE, the governing organization for baseball and softball in the Americas. Baseball is an exceptionally popular sport in the country with popular players like Henry Bonilla, Javier Lozano, and Carlos Schoenberg. The national baseball team qualified for the Pan American Games in 1975. But it remains their only appearance in a prestigious baseball championship. 

6. Boxing

Source: Coco Championship

Alongside other fighting sports like MMA, boxing is gradually gaining popularity in El Salvador. Carlos Hernández remains the most famous boxer hailing from El Salvador, even after his retirement in 2006. His stellar career includes 43 wins, 1 draw, and only 8 losses. He created boxing history when he beat David Santos to become the featherweight champion.  

Famous Local Athletes

A few noteworthy athletes from the country are as follows:

1. Rodolfo Zelaya

Rodolfo Zelaya is a famous Salvadoran footballer who started his career in 2004 playing for the San Rafael club. Later, he started playing for Chalatenango and earned the reputation of a promising young striker during his first season. In a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification match, Zalaya scored his first goal while playing for the national team against Haiti. Some of his key achievements include:

  • CONCACAF Gold Cup Best XI – 2011, 2013
  • Univision Goal of the Year – 2011
  • Alania Vladikavkaz Player of the Year – 2011

2. Carlos Monteagudo

Carlos Monteagudo started his professional career in 2004 with his hometown club, Independiente Nacional 1906. Monteagudo kicked off his international career in 2006 as a substitute in a friendly match against Bolivia. In a 2010 World Cup qualifying match, Carlos Monteagudo scored his first goal with the national team against Anguilla. 

3. Andrés Flores

Andrés Flores began his international football career in the U-15 national team. Flores was also a part of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup team of El Salvador. In 2014, Flores was named the captain of the El Salvador squad for Copa Gentroamericana. He announced his retirement in 2022 and was hired as the assistant coach of Portland Timbers 2. 


The sporting scenario in El Salvador is pretty vibrant, with numerous iconic sports personalities and international tournaments. As the country embraces more sports, the sporting industry will continue to grow. A strong focus on different sports events also provides an opportunity for the sports betting industry in El Salvador to expand.