Just barely two months into his MLS tenure, it's clear that Lionel Messi has changed the league and soccer in America in a profound way. Without question, Messi is the most high-profile player and the most talented player to ever play for an MLS club, making his debut with Inter Miami on July 21. But the difference Messi has made in a short period goes even deeper than that.
For instance, some sportsbooks are reporting that Messi has become the most-bet soccer player on their platform since July 21. Fans across the country are now betting on Inter Miami or Messi prop bets in high volumes. For fans who want to learn if sports betting is legal in their home state or learn more about placing bets, USA Legal Betting is an ideal resource.
Immediately after it was announced that Messi was joining Inter Miami, the club's odds to win the MLS Cup in 2023 changed dramatically. Keep in mind that when Messi joined the club, Inter Miami was at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and arguably the worst team in the league. That changed quickly with Messi leading the Herons to the Leagues Cup title, the first trophy in franchise history. The Argentine superstar has also positioned Inter Miami to make a late-season playoff push, keeping the club's MLS Cup hopes alive.
However, transforming Inter Miami's fortunes on the field is the least of what Messi has accomplished. The number of fans buying tickets and watching on TV has increased significantly since he came to MLS. Before his arrival, Inter Miami ranked 13th on StubHub in ticket sales. Naturally, the Herons are now the highest-selling team in the league.
Opposing teams playing host to Inter Miami have seen massive crowds and an almost shocking demand for tickets, leading to high prices on the secondary market. Those teams are now encouraging their fans to purchase season tickets for next year, primarily so they can have market-value tickets for Messi's visit with Inter Miami. Apple TV, which is the domestic home for most MLS matches, has also experienced a rise in subscriptions that can be attributed to Messi. Even in markets outside of the U.S., Apple is seeing an uptick in viewers who want to follow the next stage of Messi's career and are becoming familiar with MLS in the process.
Similar to ticket sales and viewership, merchandise sales have also been on the rise. Digital sports merchandise platform Fanatics has made more sales in the short period since Messi came to MLS than it did in 2022. At times, Adidas has struggled to keep up with the demand for replica Inter Miami Messi jerseys. A spokesperson for the company called the demand for Messi's MLS jersey "truly unprecedented."
Oddly enough, Messi isn't the first global superstar to come to MLS late in his career. David Beckham, the president and co-owner of Inter Miami, was in a similar position when he joined the LA Galaxy in 2007. Stars like Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Gareth Bale have also joined MLS in recent years. However, none of them have transformed a single team the way Messi has or made the same impact Messi has made league-wide in such a short period. Both on and off the field, Messi's presence is being felt, and as a result, MLS may never be the same again.