MLS struggles for popularity among the major sports in the USA
Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world but, although its popularity is rising across the USA, the MLS is still less highly regarded than other sports. Indeed, the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB are all clearly ahead of the national soccer league in terms of popularity. We have seen some amazing footballers playing in the USA, such as Pele, David Beckham, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the extent to which they have brought higher levels of popularity remains up for debate.
Lionel Messi is the new Inter Miami player
This could change in the next few years, however, because arguably the best footballer ever, Lionel Messi, is coming to Inter Miami after agreeing a multi-year contract. The seven times Ballon d’Or winner spent the last two seasons at PSG (Ligue 1) but opted out of his contract at the end of 2022/23.
Major titles by Leo Messi
Financial aspects of Lionel Messi’s move to the MLS
According to sources, Messi had a $400 million contract offer from Saudi Arabian Al-Hilal and an option to return to Barcelona for at least one season, but he chose Inter Miami instead. He would have become the highest-paid footballer ever, but he decided not to chase big money late in his career and to settle down with his family in Miami. According to sources, in Florida, Messi will earn about $54 million annually.
Bringing Lionel Messi to the MLS included some special sponsorship deals too. Earlier this year, Apple and MLS signed a 2.5 billion deal. As part of this Messi deal, Apple agreed to give the player a cut of every new subscription to the MLS League pass. Also, Apple will make a docu-series about Messi and his five World Cup appearances. Another part of the agreement is that Lionel Messi will receive a percentage of Inter Miami’s shirt sales and also gain a stake in the club ownership. So, although the Argentinian will not get the type of money he would earn in Saudi Arabia, he will do just fine.
Inter Miami are not playing too well this season as they occupy last place in the Eastern Conference. Still, the club is only seven points behind the playoffs, so they will be hoping that Lionel Messi can turn their season upside down.
The Lionel Messi effect has struck the MLS almost instantly. Soccer fans in the USA responded to the news by buying tickets to every Inter Miami game until the end of the season. It is reported that Lionel Messi will likely debut for the club on the 21st of July against Cruz Azul in the League Cup, a tournament between the MLS and the Mexican Liga MX. Ticket prices for the game against Cruz Azul soared by about 1,000%. The lowest ticket price went from $29 to $329. For other Inter Miami games, tickets went up very quickly too.
Leo Messi career numbers
Lionel Messi is arguably the best football player in history, so his signing by Inter Miami could be a decisive moment for the club and the whole MLS future. Indeed, Messi’s magic could strengthen sports across the nation. Football in the USA needs this, especially ahead of the World Cup 2026.