Lionel Messi’s arrival in Major League Soccer (MLS) is already causing a stir, and the profound effect it is having on ticket prices is self-evident. Thousands of fans are eager to catch a glimpse of one of the sporting greats of our generation, and witness firsthand the remarkable impact he has made on the sport.
Chances are, even if you know very little about soccer, you have still heard of Messi and Ronaldo. Perhaps the two biggest names in last year’s FIFA World Cup had many otherwise non-sports fans picking their favorite and backing either Argentina or Portugal in the competition.
Argentina eventually triumphed, beating France in the finals in a penalty shootout, of which Messi as captain contributed to their five of five records. Messi was named recipient of the Golden Ball for the tournament’s best player and the Silver Boot for the second most goals behind France’s Kylian Mbappé.
Widely regarded as one of the best players of all time, the Argentine spent the majority of his professional career at FC Barcelona and, having been brought up in the country since he was 11 years old, is also a Spanish citizen. With an astounding collection of accolades, including a record seven Ballon d’Or awards and six European Golden Shoes, Messi’s influence on the game is unparalleled.
Messi’s Move to MLS
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Messi eschewed an attempt from Barcelona for a romantic return to his former club and signed a two-year contract with Inter Miami of MLS. This move marked a significant milestone for the American league and generated immense excitement among fans.
More MLS betting is being done via sportsbooks apps as a direct result of the announcement which has set the league alight. Fans are already speculating the impact it could have on the club who managed only a 12th place overall position in last year’s table. Messi will find a compatriot in last year’s top scorer fellow Argentine, Gonzalo Higuaín.
It has become a rite of passage for many top flight footballers when they reach the twilight years of their careers to cross the Atlantic and proffer their talents in the USA’s first division. Following in the footsteps of David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimavic (LA Galaxy), Wayne Rooney (DC United) and Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Messi is making the move for an estimated $60m per year including a stake in the club.
While not considered one of the foremost soccer leagues in the world, MLS is improving especially if they continue to sign some of the sport’s biggest stars. There will certainly be ample opportunity for demands to be made of the 36-year-old football phenom, which will give him a chance to showcase the skill he has become renowned for. The acquisition of this iconic player by the league was an extraordinary triumph, three years in the making according to Inter Miami owner Jose R. Mas and ignited a frenzy of anticipation among supporters.
The Impact on the League
Unsurprisingly, the impact of Messi’s arrival has already begun reverberating through ticket prices, causing a notable surge, especially in the resell market. Price increases averaged +1000% with some users of StubHub listing tickets for Inter’s Leagues Cup game against Mexican side Cruz Azul on July 21 for $20,000 – which will be Messi’s first outing for the side. One unlucky fan who hadn’t understood the finer details traveled over 1200 miles to Miami’s match against Philadelphia Union to see him play without realizing that he had not yet arrived.
Having what many consider to be the world’s best player in MLS will fundamentally transform the league, infusing it with a level of excitement not seen before. This is sure to have a notable trickle down effect to US youngsters taking an interest in the support and the American soccer ecosystem as a whole.
The management of the club are already frantically adding a further 3,000 seats at the DRV PNK Stadium, the Herons’ home ground which will take the capacity to 21,000 in anticipation. In an attempt to cater for the increased demand and also capitalize on an opportunity to get more fans through the turnstiles, the increased volume will serve until the new 25,000 seater Miami Freedom Park project is completed in 2025.
Charlotte FC, who Miami will play in their first game of the new season, sold 10,000 tickets in just three hours after Messi announced his move to the club. Atlanta United’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium has the highest capacity stadium in the league and will include upper-level seats for their Miami games to make use of the full 71,000 capacity.
Messi’s arrival in MLS has sent ripples of excitement throughout the soccer world, manifesting in an unprecedented interest in tickets for US soccer fans. His legendary status has driven ticket prices to dizzying heights and we can only wonder how his continued presence in MLS will continue to shape the league’s trajectory going forward.