Even if you have no sports knowledge, chances are that you are still familiar with Lionel Messi, one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Born on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, Argentina, Luis Lionel Andres “Leo” Messi quickly found love for the sport. Growing up, Messi was significantly smaller than others his age, which led to him being diagnosed with a hormone deficiency. His parents made the life-changing decision of using growth hormone injections to help him grow.
At the age of 13, he signed to FC Barcelona’s youth academy, and at the age of 16, became the youngest player to score a goal for the club. Barcelona would be Messi’s home for 17 years before he joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2021. In June 2023, he announced that he would be heading to Major League Soccer (MLS), continuing his career at Inter Miami.
Messi made his Inter Miami debut on July 22, and has already made an immediate impact on his new team. He will be leaving Europe with countless awards, including four Champions League titles, 12 league titles, eight Spanish Super Cups, seven Ballon D’Ors, and six Golden Boots. Representing Argentina at the international level, Messi has won the Copa America, an Olympic gold medal, and recently, the FIFA World Cup.
Messi’s decision to play for Miami was challenging. Messi’s first choice would have been to end his career in Barcelona. Although Barcelona did approach him with an offer, he was too hesitant to accept it, fearing that, like last time, there might be a chance he would be forced to depart due to the club’s financial troubles.
Furthermore, Messi stated, “I had offers from other European teams, but I didn’t even evaluate them because my idea was to go to Barcelona and, if that didn’t come about, then leaving European football after winning the World Cup was what I needed.” Messi also received an offer from Al-Hilal — a club in Saudi Arabia — worth reportedly 1.6 billion dollars over three years.
Instead, the contract that Messi signed with Miami is valued between 125 million and 150 million American dollars and spans about two and a half years. His contract includes a base salary, bonuses, equity in the club, and profit-sharing agreements with Apple, which collects the league’s TV revenue, and with Adidas, which sponsors the league’s merchandise. David Beckham, a retired English soccer superstar and one of the co-owners of Inter Miami, played a crucial role in convincing Messi to cross the Atlantic to play in America.
But what does Messi’s arrival mean for Inter Miami and MLS?
Currently, Inter Miami sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with only five wins and a whopping 13 losses. Hopefully, Messi can help turn this team around and help them qualify for playoffs.
Despite how terrible the team is, the Messi signing has directly affected ticket prices to Inter Miami games. Both home games and away games saw ticket prices jump — tickets originally available for $29 jumped up to $329. Ticket prices for Inter Miami’s away game on August 26 against the New York Red Bulls increased by 1,236 per cent. Inter Miami also saw its social media follower counts grow significantly hours after Messi’s decision was revealed.
Although other soccer superstars, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Didier Drogba, have played in the MLS in recent years, their impacts will not compare to what Messi would do for the league. Over the last few years the MLS viewership ratings, as well as their revenue, have been on the rise. With the greatest football player in the world now playing in the league, we can expect these numbers to continue to grow.
For decades, North America has had four big sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL. In a few years, expect the MLS to be one of the biggest sports leagues in North America, potentially overtaking one of the preexisting big four leagues. Soccer will continue to grow in North America — especially with Canada, Mexico, and the USA set to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.