I'd be willing to bet that most Americans wouldn't know the World's Most Popular Athlete even if we tripped over him. That's because he's a soccer player, and although soccer's popularity in the U.S. continues to grow, Cristiano Ronaldo is just not a household name here.

He is, however, much more than a household name to most of the world. And, according to Business Insider, no one else is even close:

Using the not-very-scientific method of counting Facebook "likes," Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular athlete in the world, easily outpacing his La Liga rival, Lionel Messi.

This methodology also gives us a glimpse at just how far soccer is ahead of other sports in terms of popularity as the six most popular athletes are all soccer players and combined (342.8 million) they have 100 million more likes than the next 12 athletes combined (238.7 million).

Interestingly, the most popular American athlete is Michael Jordan, who hasn't played in the NBA since the 2002-03 season. 

Here are some of the numbers from Business Insider, using their "Facebook Likes" formula:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo: 103.5 million
  2. Lionel Messi: 76.4 million
  3. David Beckham: 51.2 million

Okay, those are your top three most popular athletes in the world. We have to drop all the way to the #7 spot to find Michael Jordan, who logs in with 27.5 million. LeBron James shows up in the #11 spot with 22.1 million. Kobe Bryant is #12, with 21.0 million.

If you know little or nothing about Cristiano Ronaldo, the video below might give you a little taste of just how famous and popular this guy is. Word has it that he's a pretty cool guy, and really cares about his fans, too:

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