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How Messi will change major league soccer for North America

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23rd Aug 2023 Sport

3 min read

How Messi will change major league soccer for North America
 When Lionel Messi played his first game for Inter Miami CF, the club sat in the basement of Major League Soccer with a pitiful 18 points in 22 matches played. Less than a month into his tenure, Messi has Inter Miami on the cusp of a championship.  

Just the Preview

The MLS regular season has been on pause since mid-July as the teams take part in the Leagues Cup, an international tournament between them and Liga MX of Mexico. Miami stormed past the Philadelphia Union (themselves the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference of MLS) 4-1 on Tuesday, August 15 to reach the title match of the Leagues Cup, the championship that the Herons are on the cusp of winning.
Right now, Miami is proving that they can win with Messi, and do so handily. That’s no easy feat, as they went from scoring an average of one goal per game in the regular season without Messi to scoring 21 goals in six games with him. Nine of those goals came off the foot of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner himself, but in many ways, it’s more encouraging to see his teammates step up their scoring pace.
Everyone knows that Messi is one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, but most of the questions surrounding Miami since they picked him up focused on whether he’d be able to elevate teammates at a talent level far below what he was used to dealing with in Europe.
There’s a wide gulf between the superstars of Spain’s La Liga and the cellar dwellers of MLS, but Messi has proven himself able to bridge that gap, even in his age-36 season.
The Leagues Cup came at a perfect time for Miami because it’s given the team a chance to work out how Messi fits in with the team (and any potential growing pains that could occur because of the roster overhaul) without costing them regular season games. Of course, it looks like they’d have been running rampant through the regular season too, given their perfect 5-0 record against MLS competition with Messi on the gameday roster, but now we know that Miami is a legitimate threat.

Shakings Things Up

Messi is a legitimate phenomenon, and the chance to see one of the greatest players to ever play the world’s most famous sport take the field does not come cheap.
As you may expect, tickets to see Miami play have skyrocketed in value since early June, when the move was first announced. The cheapest tickets for Inter Miami’s first MLS game with Messi (following the midseason break) on August 26 sat around $30 in early June. Now that Messi is in the fold, it costs roughly $500 just to get in the door as fans jump at the opportunity to resell their tickets and make a killing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a road game or a home game, people are going to pay handsomely to see Messi play. MLS has seen a massive jump in betting as well, as fans want to see if Miami can sneak into the playoffs with Messi aboard. You can find great sportsbook promos here if you looking to get in on the action.
Miami made a gamble by handing him an ownership stake and the richest deal in MLS history, but the get-in price alone shows that it’s going to pay dividends. It’s not Miami’s first rodeo, either as partial owner David Beckham (of English Premier League fame) signed with the LA Galaxy in the late 2000s, going on to win a pair of championships for the team. He knows firsthand about the impact that bringing in top overseas talents could have, and it’ll be interesting to see if a bidding war starts between other MLS teams trying to bring in superstars of their own, changing the face of the new-look league.

Worst to First?

Miami qualified for the Leagues Cup automatically: every team in MLS did. Getting into the playoffs proves a tougher challenge, though, as they’ll have 12 matches to make up a 12-point difference to sneak into the postseason as the No. 9 seed, the lowest slot eligible for the play-in tournament. The good news is that Miami has shown they’re capable of going out and running the table. If they haven’t lost in five games against MLS competition despite being one of the worst teams in the league without Messi, he’s enough of an equalizer to put them over the top.
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