Although Lionel Messi’s transfer to Inter Miami has not yet been completed, his impact on Major League Soccer is already being felt.
Stars of the sport; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, and even Pelé have all played in the United States.
Nonetheless, it’s conceivable that Messi will impact the game in the US than the greater part of the large names that went before him.
Jim Curtin, the head coach of the Philadelphia Union, stated: It’s probably the biggest day in MLS history.
As fans eagerly await Messi’s first visit to play against their teams with his new club, ticket prices are soaring across the league and Inter Miami has already benefited from a significant increase in social media followers.
Kieran Maguire, author of The Price of Football and a football finance lecturer at the University of Liverpool Management School, states:
“To a certain extent, it’s similar to what we were seeing with the prices for Arsenal’s tickets for their final home match of the season in reference to the English team when it was leading the Premier League last season. “When Arsenal were eight points ahead of Manchester City, you had £50 tickets going on StubHub and similar for £1,000.
“For those people who want to be able to say: ‘I was there at Lionel Messi’s first MLS game,’ demand will exceed supply.
“He’s not playing at every ground in every week so I don’t see a huge ripple effect and also I think there will be a sharp spike and then things will return to some form of normality, especially if he doesn’t transform things for them.”
Tickets for Inter Miami games increased by more than 1,000 percent in the minutes following the news that Messi would be moving to the United States.
The cheapest ticket for Inter Miami’s Leagues Cup match against Cruz Azul on July 21 (possibly Messi’s first game with his new team) was just $29, according to resale website TickPick.
According to TickPick, the cheapest ticket was $329 in the 24 hours following the announcement of Messi’s upcoming move, an increase of 1,034%.
However, ticket prices for Messi’s first trip to the Big Apple in August went up by 1,236 percent for Miami’s matchup with the New York Red Bulls.
Similar results have been seen on StubHub, where sales of Inter Miami games have increased 28 times since the announcement of Messi’s contract.
Ticket sales have also increased for other MLS teams; According to StubHub, Miami’s away match against Los Angeles FC is currently on track to be the No. 1 selling event in LAFC’s season, moving up from the 15th spot. 1.
Already, Messi’s impending transfer to Inter Miami, which is currently in the bottom half of the MLS Eastern Conference, has significantly boosted the club’s global reach.
The club had roughly one million Instagram followers before the announcement; It currently has 7.8 million users, more than any NFL, MLB, NHL, or MLS team account as of June 13.
Maguire adds, “Converting followers or monetizing followers is always a challenge.” It helps with business deals because you can now say, “Pitch to a commercial partner,” when you want to. Your product will now be seen by six million rather than one million people.
As has been the case for every major star since Pelé joined the New York Cosmos in 1975 in what was then the North American Soccer League, a large part of Messi’s role in Miami will be to promote MLS and soccer in general in the United States.
The Argentine will not be required to “crack America” in the same way that Beckham was, but soccer’s exponential growth in popularity and value since Beckham joined Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 suggests that it could still benefit from an increase in popularity in the United States.
In terms of fan support, a 2022 Statista report found that MLS was still behind the four other major sports leagues in the United States: the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB.
Maguire asserts that Messi’s “objective” while in the United States will merely be to “keep the trajectory growing.” However, he is of the opinion that soccer will “never break into” the sports scene in the United States.
He elaborates, “The NFL and NBA are part of the culture in the US, and those cultural norms are so established that soccer and football will never compete with them.”
“I think he will help the game to grow, we’ve got the 2026 World Cup taking place in the USA, Canada and Mexico, but in my view there is a natural ceiling for the MLS and he’s going to help the sport get to that ceiling that much quicker, rather than being a disruptor or a challenger for the traditional big sports in the States.”
The reported structure of the deal indicates that Messi’s earning opportunities are significantly higher than his basic MLS salary, despite the fact that Inter Miami is unable to compete with the salaries offered by Saudi Arabia’s clubs.
Messi’s new deal with Miami includes a share of the revenue from new subscribers to Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass streaming service and an option for part-ownership.
MLS announced a 10-year agreement with Apple to stream all US men’s top-flight games worldwide.
Every MLS, Leagues Cup, MLS NEXT Pro, and MLS NEXT match this season can be watched on Apple TV, the streaming platform of the men’s professional soccer league.
A soccer subscription from Apple has recently been reduced from $99 to $49 for the remainder of the season.
Although Apple SVP of services Eddy Cue recently stated that the company is performing “much better than forecasted” in terms of the number of subscriptions and viewership numbers, the company does not disclose viewership figures.
Messi will have to perform on the field regardless of the specifics of the contract in order for his time in the MLS to be meaningful and interesting.
The Argentine has a lot of work to do because Miami has the third-worst point total in the league and is at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
However, Messi is the only player who has the potential to improve both the club and the MLS.