Subscription packages sold by the NFL, NBA, MLB, and sports broadcasting networks don’t give you unlimited access to all the games. Some games can only be watched in certain areas; fortunately, a VPN can overcome those limitations.
In a world of sports where officials can’t agree on what defines a catch in the NFL, what the strike zone is in MLB, or whether James Harden should be allowed to game the game in the NBA; we shouldn’t be surprised that official sports streaming services have arcane restrictions on what can be watched where. If you are paying for some of those services and want to be able to watch blacked-out home games or home games when you’re traveling out of town (or the country), a good VPN can unlock that door.
Streaming service websites read your IP address, and IP addresses are assigned to specific geographic areas (like phone area codes and Zip codes). Thus, those websites know where you are. A VPN lets you use an IP address that is assigned to another location. That can fool a website.
This article will help you pick the best VPN for live sports streaming.
If you prefer a CliffsNotes summary to the more detailed explanations that follow, you can use this annotated list of the best VPNs for streaming sports in 2022:
- NordVPN: My #1 choice for streaming sports. Sprinter-fast, vast network that accesses streaming services and navigates restrictive countries. Has a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark: Best budget premium VPN that is very fast, secure, and privacy-oriented. Streaming is one of its virtues.
- ExpressVPN: This premium VPN has servers in 94+ countries, very fast connections, and excels at accessing streaming services.
- CyberGhost: The Usain Bolt of VPNs, with very competitive prices and solid security.
- PrivateVPN: A good budget VPN. Like Aaron Donald, it is great at overcoming blocks. Has high customer satisfaction.
- IPVanish: Just trailing Bolt, this VPN offers excellent customer support. Also allows unlimited simultaneous connections.
- Private Internet Access (PIA): Slightly more expensive than other providers, but it has excellent privacy and security features.
- Atlas VPN: Fast, bargain-priced, but full-featured VPN. Works with all major streaming services.
Choosing a VPN is like putting together a football roster. Speed and size are very important considerations. If you buy the cliché that games are won in the trenches, you need protection on one side of the ball and the ability to overcome restrictions on the other side. Streaming services do try to block subscribers from certain games and events. A more detailed and less analogous explanation of the methodology for selecting the best VPNs for live sports streaming follows my picks. However, here is a quick summary of the criteria I considered:
- Fast speeds
- The ability to dodge regional restrictions
- Availability for a range of devices
- The ability to load the VPN on a router
- Good value for money
- A large server network
The best VPNs for streaming sports in 2023
To avoid any possible confusion, a VPN is not a substitute for subscribing to any service. It will not get you free access. However, it will let you maximize the value of your subscriptions. The following reviews explain why each of these VPNs is recommended for streaming sports.
NordVPN is fast enough to run a fly pattern and leave the cornerback behind. NordVPN can access ESPN+, FOX Sports, NFL Game Pass, Sportsnet, NBC Sports, and other popular sports and entertainment streaming media services. It works well for users in China and other countries that block VPNs. NordVPN has more than 5,600 servers in 60+ countries. Those strengths and excellent security features make it the best all-around VPN for streaming sports.
As a premium VPN, NordVPN has all the standard security capabilities and a bunch of extra features. It will block ads, pop-ups, trackers, and malware. Additional features include 256-bit encryption, split-tunneling, obfuscated servers, private DNS, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch.
NordVPN does not keep any logs and your privacy is completely protected. You can even register and pay anonymously. Many VPNs are cheaper, but NordVPN is competitively priced for a premium VPN. You’re going to pay more for LeBron James than a rookie, and it will be worth it.
It makes easy-to-use apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. Users laud its tech support and customer service.
- Great speed
- Works with major streaming media services
- Great privacy and security features
- Works in China
- Blocks ads, pop-ups, trackers, and malware
- Many VPNs are cheaper
BEST VPN FOR STREAMING SPORTS:NordVPN is a splendid all-around VPN. It’s very fast, has bonus security features, and is great for streaming. NordVPN gives you a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark is the best budget premium VPN. It is the fifth fastest VPN, which is as fast as you need for streaming HD content like football games. Surfshark is very good at unblocking streaming content.
The provider is cheap for a premium VPN. Although it is one of the newer VPNs, Surfshark already has more than 3,200 servers in 99+ countries. The service works in China.
Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections. Don’t let your family use too many while you’re watching games, because that will strain your bandwidth. It has an abundance of security and privacy features. It blocks ads and trackers as well as Trent Williams blocks defensive linemen. It includes a browser plug-in that flattens cookie-notice pop-ups in the backfield. Other features include kill switches, obfuscated servers, and private DNS.
One of the biggest differences between Surfshark and NordVPN is customer relations. A common issue people cite is having trouble canceling service.
- Low prices with the 24-month plan
- Very fast
- Accesses all major streaming media services
- Bonus security and privacy features
- Unlimited connections
- Users complain that Surfshark makes canceling the service too difficult
BEST BUDGET VPN:Surfshark gives you a Zion Williamson-sized amount of features and benefits for a low price. It offers everything you need for live sports streaming. A 30-day money-back guarantee is included.
ExpressVPN is the third fastest VPN. This premium VPN service has servers in almost 100 countries, which makes it ideal for frequent business travelers and touring musicians who want to stream live sports wherever they go.
The provider is very good at accessing both streaming media services and VPN-blocking countries, including China. Major premium VPNs, such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN, have the resources to quickly develop workarounds if a streaming service becomes successful at blocking other VPNs.
ExpressVPN has exemplary security capabilities and blocks trackers. It keeps no activity or connection logs and uses its own encrypted DNS on every server. ExpressVPN makes apps for every type of device and system. Its parent company Kape Technologies has an unscrupulous past. That could be a concern, but user reviews confirm that ExpressVPN’s privacy and security capabilities remain on par with the best VPNs and customers are satisfied.
That leaves one notable reason not to choose NordVPN or Surfshark over ExpressVPN: price. ExpressVPN is expensive. Do you pay to keep a star-free agent or gamble on a top prospect? The choice is similar to ExpressVPN.
- Very fast
- Vast server network
- Good at accessing streaming media services
- Easy to use
- Owned by Kape Technologies
AN EXCELLENT PREMIUM VPN SERVICE:ExpressVPN gives you world-class speed, security, features, and customer service. It has servers close to most of the world’s population. Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
CyberGhost is the fastest VPN. It also lets you choose dedicated streaming servers. Those factors should make it the best VPN for live streaming, but CyberGhost is not able to access all streaming media services. However, it does work with many of the major streaming services.
The provider operates a network of more than 9,000 servers in 90+ countries. That makes it a great choice for people who live far from a big city or who travel often. Its other top selling points are price and customer service.
CyberGhost’s privacy and security capabilities are solid: it does not log your activity. It blocks ads and malware, and it has kill switches and leak protection. Automatic WiFi protection is a nice feature for frequent travelers.
Apps for Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, and Linux are simple and easy to use. That makes it a good choice for first-time VPN users. Controversial company Kape Technologies owns CyberGhost along with ExpressVPN.
- Fastest speeds
- Dedicated streaming servers
- Very good price for the three-year plan
- Highly satisfied customers
- Little or no service in China or UAE
- Won’t access all streaming services
FASTEST VPN FOR STREAMING SPORTS:CyberGhost’s exceptional speed and dedicated servers are ideal for streaming video. Customer satisfaction is very high. Comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN is one of the fastest and cheapest VPNs. It needs to be both, because standing next to NordVPN, it would look like a point guard standing next to a center. It has 200+ servers in 63+ countries, but only a dozen in the U.S. However, they are well-scattered among cities with pro sports teams.
The provider was acquired by Miss Group, a Swedish company that owns web hosting companies, in June 2022. Miss Group did not announce any specific plans, but described PrivateVPN as the fastest-growing VPN. Miss Group would be a terrible name for a basketball team.
PrivateVPN works with all the other major streaming services and works in China. It also allows 10 simultaneous connected devices and does not keep logs. It has very good security capabilities, although it lacks some of the extra security features that premium VPNs give you. Apps for all four major operating systems are easy to use, but its greatest virtue is customer satisfaction.
- Works with all major streaming services
- Great price for the three-year plan
- Users love it
- Small size and limited numbers of servers
- No real-time support
FAST AND CHEAP VPN:PrivateVPN costs less if you pay for three years of service and is great for streaming. Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for added peace of mind.
IPVanish had you in mind when it designed its home page. It has large photos of people watching live streams of football, baseball, soccer, and boxing. IPVanish is the second fastest VPN, and mostly deserves the image it has created as being great for streaming sports. However, other VPNs are more effective at overcoming VPN blocks from some streaming media services, as well as from countries like China.
The provider operates a network of more than 2,000 servers in over 75 locations. Most of its servers are in the U.S., so Americans should have no trouble getting fast connections for games that are blacked out in their local market.
IPVanish’s prices are higher than average. It is touting protection against malware and ransomware as the reason for that. IPVanish recently upgraded to the WireGuard connection protocol, which increases speed and security. Other security features are standard, but solid. Privacy is excellent with a full no-logs policy.
Apps are minimalist and easy to use. You can connect as many devices as you want. Few VPN customer services teams can be reached by phone, so IPVanish stands out for that reason.
- Excellent customer support
- Great speed
- Works with Kodi
- Doesn’t access Amazon Prime and some other popular streaming services
- Doesn’t work in China
IMPRESSIVE CUSTOMER SUPPORT:IPVanish is very fast, easy to use, and provides unmatched support. You may simultaneously connect all your family’s devices. Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a great choice for people who love to play fantasy sports and sports table or video games. It gives you the same amount of control over its features and appearance as a team GM, manager, or coach has.
The provider operates servers in all 50 states, and more than 3,300 servers throughout the world. You can easily get a fast connection anywhere in the U.S.
PIA’s other niche is exceptional privacy features. The company operates RAM-only servers, which means they save no data. PIA keeps no logs and it has a feature that lets you route traffic through several servers at the same time. You can pay anonymously.
Security features are equally impressive. PIA can block ads, trackers, and malware. It gives you kill switches, cloaking technology, split tunneling, the WireGuard connection protocol, and private DNS.
If you subscribe to a lot of sports streaming services, PIA might not be the best choice on this list. In general, PIA is not as good at accessing streaming media sites as the other VPNs mentioned here.
- Excellent privacy and security features
- Allows lots of choices and customization
- Servers in all 50 U.S. states
- Customer relations need improvement
- Not great for accessing streaming media services
- Subpar support content on the website
EXCELLENT SERVER COVERAGE:With servers in all 50 states, PIA has you covered. Privacy and security features are excellent as well. Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Atlas VPN is another young rising star among VPNs. Older sports fans may think of famed bodybuilder Charles Atlas, but Atlas VPN is built more for speed than size. Atlas’s speed is the sixth fastest and it works with all major streaming services and is great for torrenting. However, the network is relatively small with more than 750 servers in 40+ countries. The service does not work in China.
The provider is one of the cheapest VPNs. In spite of the low prices, Atlas VPN provides an impressive complement of security features. These include tracker blocking, split tunneling, private DNS, the WireGuard connection protocol, kill switches, and malware and ad blocking. Atlas has a no-logs policy.
Atlas VPN was recently acquired by Nord Security, the developer of NordVPN, but is still independently operated. It allows unlimited simultaneous connections.
Unfortunately, too many people say that Atlas VPN will willfully commit pass interference if you attempt to cancel service during the 30-day trial period.
- Works with all major streaming services
- Very inexpensive
- Good selection of security features
- Will not work with Linux, Chrome OS, or older versions of Windows (pre-Windows 10)
- Customer relations are poor
- Relatively small network
GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY:Atlas VPN offers a lot for the price, but canceling is a challenge if you aren’t satisfied. Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, but as discussed, they can make leaving difficult.
Methodology: Choosing the best VPNs for sports streaming
I used the same criteria I would use to select the best general VPNs for picking my list of VPNs for sports streaming. However, speed, unblocking ability, and the number of server locations are weighted much more heavily. These are the key criteria:
- Performance (speed): Using a VPN will cause some amount of slowing compared with a direct connection to the internet. The best VPNs potentially have no noticeable speed loss. Slower speeds can cause buffering, delays with dots across the screen, or low-resolution video. That is especially undesirable for watching live sports. The VPNs recommended in this article are fast enough for live HD broadcasts, which is often the highest video quality provided by sports streamers.
- Unblocking ability: Streaming services try to prevent VPN users from accessing their sites, so the ability to overcome those blocks is as important as having a pass rush. The ability to access content while in restrictive regions is also necessary if you want to watch games while you are in China or another country with a repressive government.
- Server locations: Some streaming services, such as NFL Game Pass, are not available in the United States and some other countries. Thus, you need to be able to access streams of games in the U.S. from a variety of other countries. If you are located far from a VPN’s nearest server, your connection will be slower. More servers also increase your chances of a fast connection, as you are sharing space with fewer other customers.
- Security and privacy: You are probably going to violate the terms of service established by your streaming providers. That means you need great security and privacy protection from your VPN. All the best VPNs have a full complement of security features, including 256-bit encryption, leak protection, kill switches in all apps, and split tunneling. Many of them can also block malware, ads, and trackers. Some provide additional bonus features to enhance security and privacy. For privacy, an uncompromising no-logs policy is essential.
- Value: VPNs constantly run promotions. Most of them are loss-leader introductory prices. They also try to make their prices difficult to compare with their competitors. I know the market, so I can identify good and bad deals.
- Customer relations: You must be able to get prompt help when you need it and get your problems solved. I evaluate tech support options and responsiveness, customer service, website content, and usability. I read user reviews to see how customers feel about how their VPNs treat them.
For even more information about the criteria I use when compiling my VPN lists, check out the testing methodology page.
How do I access sports streaming services with a VPN?
Read the short reviews above and pick the VPN that works best for you. NordVPN is the best all-around choice, but one of the others might better fit your budget or other needs.
- Sign up for a service. You’ll need to commit to two or three years to get the lowest price, but you can start with a month or a year to make sure you’re satisfied.
- Download and install the VPN software for your operating systems (Windows, Android, etc.)
- If you don’t already subscribe to a streaming service, find a service(s) that has the games you want and research countries to find one with a low price. Make sure the country doesn’t lock you out of key games.
- Using the VPN, connect to a server in the virtual country you plan to use for streaming.
- Log in to the service and test it. If it works, you should be set for the rest of the season. If not, try connecting from another server location. If some of your team’s home games are blocked, you may need to experiment with several servers. All VPN apps make that easy.
Sports streaming FAQs
Can I use a free VPN for streaming sports?
The literal answer is maybe. Some free VPNs may ban streaming because it consumes too much bandwidth. Some free VPNs do not encrypt data, which means someone else could gain access to your account. Some free VPNs limit streaming video quality to very low resolution.
Assuming you can use a free VPN for streaming games, you are still stuck with all the other limitations and risks of using a free VPN. The biggest one for ball games is slowness. Free VPNs do not need to invest in a lot of servers, so too many users share each server. Those traffic jams cause slowing. Your slow connection will result in periodic buffering and dropouts. It invariably happens when Aaron Judge is at bat, a football team is in a two-minute drill, or Nikola Jokić is single-handedly keeping Denver in a game in the last minute.
Security risks are the biggest general concern with free VPNs. Providing the service costs quite a bit of money, and free VPNs must find a way to recoup that. They may track you and sell the information. They may infect your devices with malware.
If you can afford to pay for streaming services and a VPN, you should do it. You can avoid a lot of aggravation and a guilty conscience, and just enjoy the games (assuming your team wins). Check out my list of cheap VPNs if you’re on a budget.
Is using a VPN to stream blocked games legal?
A lawyer would probably have to conduct legal research in multiple jurisdictions and countries to give you an answer. My guess is that you are not breaking any laws, but you are violating the terms of service you accepted when you signed up for the streaming service.
Note: Nothing I say in this article should be taken as legal advice.
If you live in the U.S., you can read more about the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 here.
Can I use a VPN to bypass blackouts in the U.S.?
Yes. If your home team is blacked-out because it failed to sell out the game, all you have to do is connect to a VPN server in another city.
Why are some sporting events location-blocked?
Different teams and leagues have different reasons. The most common is that they believe that local broadcasts and live streams cause them to lose ticket sales. Sports tickets are absurdly expensive these days, especially for teams that draw well. When you can stream a whole season for the cost of attending one live game, that argument is out-of-date.
Another common reason is that the broadcaster/streaming service is contractually limited to only show games to users in certain areas. In that regard, sporting events are in the same boat as movies and television shows from companies like Hulu and Disney+.
Will using a VPN reduce my streaming speeds?
Yes, but probably not enough to matter. The best VPNs are able to let you stream 4k video. Most sports streams are only HD, which is much lower resolution and therefore less dependent on high speed. I’ve only recommended fast VPNs in this article, because a slower one might be inadequate.
The speed of your internet connection is also a limiting factor. Your ISP may want you to believe otherwise, but even 50 Mbps is fast enough for HD streaming. If you do encounter problems, ask your spouse and kids or roommates to stop subdividing your connection speed during key games.
What sports streaming services can you access with a VPN?
If you have a subscription, you can watch anything. Not all VPNs will access all services, but the ones listed above will come the closest.
- The best VPNs for streaming sports in 2023
- 1. NordVPN
- 2. Surfshark
- 3. ExpressVPN
- 4. CyberGhost
- 5. PrivateVPN
- 6. IPVanish
- 7. Private Internet Access
- 8. Atlas VPN
- Methodology: Choosing the best VPNs for sports streaming
- How do I access sports streaming services with a VPN?
- Sports streaming FAQs
- Can I use a free VPN for streaming sports?
- Is using a VPN to stream blocked games legal?
- Can I use a VPN to bypass blackouts in the U.S.?
- Why are some sporting events location-blocked?
- Will using a VPN reduce my streaming speeds?
- What sports streaming services can you access with a VPN?