WASHINGTON, DC--More females play team sports now than 10 years ago, and far more females will play team sports in the next decade, according to the U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2006 Edition).

In the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association's (SGMA) study, authors analyzed many team sports and the role that females play in each activity. In 1990-1991, female high school varsity athletic teams numbered 1,892; in 2000-2001, the number increased to 2,746; and in 2005-2006, that number grew to 2,953 teams — a 56.1 percent increase from the 1990-1991 school year. During that same period, the number of male high school varsity teams increased by just 23.5 percent.

In 2005, there were 32 million basketball players in the United States — of which 10 million were female. In slow-pitch softball, nearly half of all players are female. In fast-pitch softball, females account for three-quarters of all players. In volleyball, females account for the majority of the player base in the court and grass versions. In sand/beach volleyball, females represent less than half of all players. Of the 17 million soccer players in the United States, 42 percent (or 7.2 million) of them are female.

Other team sports where the female presence is significant include lacrosse, rugby, cheerleading, field hockey and ice hockey. More than 50,000 girls play high school lacrosse; in rugby, the U.S. Women's national team finished fifth at this summer's Women's Rugby World Cup in Canada; in cheerleading, 99 percent of participants are female; field hockey is the 11th most popular high school sport for girls; and in ice hockey, roughly half as many women college teams exist as men's teams.

When analyzing high school and college sports, four out of the top five most popular participatory activities for both categories are team sports with basketball as the most popular high school sport for girls. At the college level, soccer is number one, the researchers found.