Major League Soccer's newest signee is none other than Lionel Messi, a legendary player widely considered as one of the greatest to grace the field. Messi will join Inter Miami CF after his departure from Paris Saint-Germain, shaking up the soccer world and marking a historic moment for the top league in the United States. The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner is set to remain in MLS until 2026, coinciding with the next World Cup jointly hosted by Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
Despite being at the bottom of the MLS table, Inter Miami CF aims to bounce back with the addition of Messi, who recently led Argentina to their 2022 World Cup victory. With over 800 goals and 300 assists in his professional soccer career and a slew of titles under his belt, including 10 LaLiga and four Champions League titles with Barcelona, Messi intends to add more accolades to his resume. In a statement about his move, Messi expressed his excitement to experience football in another way and enjoy a calmer day-to-day experience.
While details regarding his transfer are still being ironed out, Messi's decision to join MLS is final.
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Contract, How and Why Messi Comes to MLS?
Lio has been on the radar of the U.S. league since 2018, when David Beckham and his partners were awarded the 25th MLS franchise by commissioner Don Garber. After the announcement, Messi teased the idea of playing in Miami with a congratulatory Instagram post to Beckham. Through years of effort and some innovative deal-making, the league has finally secured its biggest star.
Garber has been committed to making MLS one of the top leagues in soccer since 2010, with a goal to achieve it by 2022. Although this was stated when Russia and Qatar won the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids respectively, the successful three-country bid for 2026 and Messi's reported contract heading into that year provide a boost for the MLS project.
Messi was earning an estimated $45 million annually (net) in Paris, but due to the strict salary cap and roster regulations in MLS, he would not be able to receive a similar contract. However, according to a report by the Miami Herald, a complex deal worth between $125 million and $150 million over a 2.5-year contract (with an option year for 2026) has been proposed. This deal includes salary, bonuses, and equity in the team, alongside profit-sharing agreements from Apple and Adidas.
The announcement of Messi's decision to join MLS came after Apple revealed a docuseries about his World Cup journey. Despite the need for formal agreement, MLS released a statement expressing excitement to welcome one of the greatest soccer players of all time to the league.
The Role of David Beckham in Signing Messi
When the renowned English footballer traded Real Madrid and LaLiga for the LA Galaxy in 2007, it was a major coup for MLS. He brought with him his Premier League luminary status, and as part of the deal, he secured the option to start an MLS team in the future for the discounted price of $25 million. To put this in perspective, the most recent MLS team awarded in 2023, in San Diego, reportedly cost $500 million. This season, Messi will play for Beckham's future team.
Although they never played together, Beckham and Messi have several connections. Beckham's final professional season was with PSG in 2013, and he has recently been working as an ambassador for Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), which owns PSG, where Messi played from 2021 to 2023. Additionally, both are major superstars in Adidas' portfolio of celebrities and athletes and have remained in contact over the years.
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How Has Messi's Announcement Affected Ticket Prices?
After Messi's announcement, ticket prices for every remaining MLS game involving Inter Miami CF have skyrocketed, with fans buying tickets even for the matches where he will not play or be a substitute.
For instance, ticket prices for his supposed debut on July 21 against Cruz Azul have increased by 1000%, with the lowest ticket prices available jumping from $32 to $332. There have also been significant increases in ticket prices for away games, such as the Aug. 26 match against the New York Red Bulls, where prices rose by 1,23%. Similarly, ticket prices for the Sept. 3 match against LAFC in Southern California jumped by 420%, according to TickPick.
Although fans are hedging their bets, just in case, DC United has reportedly sold an additional 3,000 tickets for their July 8 home match against Inter Miami CF, even though it's well before Messi's supposed first game. At the time of this article's publication, tickets for the July 1 game against Austin and the July 4 game against Columbus Crew have not increased significantly in price despite Messi's expected contract start date of July 1.
Can Inter Miami win a trophy in the 2023 MLS season with Messi?
The MLS playoffs are within reach for Inter Miami CF with a few consecutive victories due to the advantageous playoff bracket. Additionally, they have a chance to compete in the Leagues Cup if they perform well early on. The team is also getting ready for the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup versus FC Cincinnati, which is scheduled for Aug. 23, giving Messi ample time to prepare for the game.