Lionel Messi’s influence on US soccer: rising ticket costs and social media 2023

Lionel Messi’s transfer to Inter Miami is still pending, but MLS is already feeling his influence.

David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, and Pelé have played in the US.

“It’s the biggest day in probably MLS history,” said Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin.

Inter Miami has seen a big increase in social media followers, and ticket prices throughout the league are rising as supporters anxiously anticipate Messi’s first visit with his new club.

Messi may affect US soccer more than any other player.

Are pricing and interest long-term? The Price of Football author and Liverpool Management School football finance instructor Kieran Maguire expects them to flatten out again.

Maguire told CNN Sport that it was equivalent to Arsenal’s ticket costs for their last home match last season, when the English side led the Premier League. “When Arsenal were eight points ahead of Manchester City, StubHub and similar sold £50 tickets for £1,000.

“For those who want 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 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.”

After Messi moved to the US, Inter Miami ticket prices increased by almost 1,000%.

TickPick’s 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 $29.

TickPick said that the cheapest ticket rose 1,034% to $329 in the 24 hours following Messi’s transfer.

For Messi’s first visit to New York in August, Miami’s game against the Red Bulls had the greatest ticket price rise, 1,236%.

Since Messi’s signing was disclosed, StubHub sales for Inter Miami’s games from July until the conclusion of the season had increased 28-fold.

StubHub said that Miami’s away game against LAFC has gone from the 15th highest-selling event in LAFC’s season to the second, and is on course to reach No. 1.

Breaking America

Inter Miami’s global reach has increased due to Messi’s impending arrival.

The club currently has 7.8 million Instagram followers, more than any NFL, MLB, NHL, or MLS team.

“Converting or monetizing followers is always a challenge,” says Maguire. “It helps commercial deals because if you want to pitch a commercial partner, you can now say: ‘Well, your product is now going to be seen by six million people instead of one million.

“So it will help from that perspective, A) in terms of prices that Inter Miami can charge and B) with the number of commercial partners, who suddenly want their product next to Lionel Messi.”

As with every significant player since Pelé joined the New York Cosmos in 1975 in the North American Soccer League, Messi’s role in Miami will be to promote MLS and soccer in the US.

While the Argentine won’t have to “crack America” as Beckham did, the sport has grown immensely in popularity and value since Beckham came to Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007. Soccer may still use an elevation in the US.

MLS still behind the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB in fan popularity in 2022, according to Statista.

Maguire says Messi’s “objective” in the US will be to “keep the trajectory growing” but believes soccer will “never break into” the US sports landscape.

“The NFL and NBA are part of US culture and those cultural norms are so established that there is no chance of soccer, football ever, ever competing with them,” he says.

“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.”

Messi can turn the club and MLS around.

Inter Miami cannot match Saudi Arabia’s teams’ pay, but the deal’s structure implies Messi’s earning potential is far larger than his MLS contract.

According to various sources, Messi’s new arrangement with Miami includes a possibility for part-ownership of the team and a portion of earnings from new Apple TV MLS Season Pass members.

Last year, MLS signed a 10-year partnership with Apple to webcast all US top-flight men’s games globally.

Every MLS, Leagues Cup, MLS NEXT Pro, and MLS NEXT match may be streamed on Apple TV this season.

Apple reduced soccer subscriptions to $49 from $99 for the rest of the season. Apple SVP of services Eddy Cue stated viewing and subscription statistics are “much better than forecasted” despite the firm not disclosing them.

CNN has contacted Major League Soccer, Inter Miami, Messi’s lawyer, Apple, and Inter Miami owner David Beckham for financial data.

Maguire believes Saudi Arabia’s bids were “far more lucrative” notwithstanding that agreement.

“He’s been offered a nine-figure Middle Eastern salary,” he claims. “He won’t get hundreds of millions in Miami.”

Messi must play well in the MLS to keep his contract relevant.

Miami sits last in the Eastern Conference with the third-worst points total.

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