How has Lionel Messi’s Move Impacted the MLS?

Messi PIC

The MLS had long been seen as a retirement league by many football fans across the world and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when it comes to putting on an entertaining and competitive display, it doesn’t necessarily make a compelling show. It does however give football fans in the states a good chance to see some incredible talent before they close the curtains on their careers for good. However over the last few years this has started to change, younger players have begun moving over to the states mixed in with the experienced and ageing talent.

However outside of a few marquee signings, there has never really been a huge name joining the league. Ibrahimovic perhaps? Maybe Gerrard? However, that has all changed this season with arguably the greatest player of all time moving to the MLS to represent David Beckham’s Inter Miami. As you can imagine, with the GOAT joining the MLS a lot more eyes are on the league across the world. To see the start of his impact, you only need to look at something as simple as Instagram followers, before the rumours started they had 1 million followers, in the first four hours after Inter Miami announced Messi, they gained 1.3 million more followers and at the time of writing this, they currently have 15 million

Messi PIC
How has Lionel Messi's Move Impacted the MLS? 4

Messi signing for Inter Miami CF shocked many, but how will his MLS career go?

Source: ESPN

Being the most successful player of all time, people everywhere want to watch him, he is arguably the most naturally talented player to ever play the game, he makes everything he does look completely effortless. Now, for that luxury you can expect to pay a premium for sure but watching Inter Miami wasn’t necessarily something anyone could do to begin with, the average cost of a ticket for an Inter Miami home game was $152 at the start of this season and considering they were wallowing around the bottom of the table with no hopes of success, that is outrageous! Since Messi however, tickets have risen to an average price of $935, that is a 515% increase according to TicketiQ, insanity!

Not only that but it’s said that in the week leading up to Messi’s debut, Inter Miami sold more tickets than they had in the entire previous seasons! While that seems outrageous, I can believe it. The average attendance of their games has increased by 50%. You can’t deny that Messi has more Americans interested in going to football games now than they have been over the last few decades. Of course, with more people going to games, you can’t go under dressed can you? The effect he has had isn’t only on ticket sales, but also merchandise, whether that is official shirts or whether it is MLS or Messi themed merchandise!

The next point I’d like to bring to your attention is the viewership itself, I’ll be using the Leagues Cup as an example for this. In the past, Leagues Cup games were averaging 680,000 viewers, but this season the games that were on TV had 13.6 million eyes on them. Then there’s the MLS Season pass streaming service, while the impact may not seem a lot, prior to Messi joining they had “close to a million subscribers”. The day Messi signed his contract that went up 110k immediately. The initial number is now double the original, close to 2 million subscribers now. So sure, that doesn’t seem like a lot but when the subscriber base doubles due to one man signing for an MLS club? That says a lot really. The MLS have latched onto the Messi effect however as they have got him to star in multiple commercials to try and catch the eye of sports fans.

Now more eyes being on the sport has led to a lot of changes already and will continue to change the sporting landscape across the states. The big change you’ll begin to see is more grass roots football clubs getting attention, more eyes drawn to collegiate football and more kids growing up following football as opposed to the other major sports in the states like American Football, Baseball, Basketball and even Ice Hockey. Then there’s the effect on sports betting in the states too. More eyes means more people wanting to wager on games, whether that’s between friends for ‘fun’ or whether that’s using sports betting websites.

Of course, gambling laws across America vary from state to state. But as it stands, sports betting is now legal in more than 30 states, however some states only have in-person betting. This means you can’t bet online in those particular states. However, recently it has been announced that Sports betting in Kentucky is now legal, as well as Vermont and North Carolina. So what does that mean for Kentuckians, Vermonters and North Carolinians? Well firstly there will be plenty of sportsbooks that will now be offering odds on a wide range of sports, like odds on Atalanta (+155, $12.75 return from $5) Vs Inter Miami (+160, $13 return from $5)  in the MLS or odds on who will win the MLS Cup, spoiler alert, the favourite team is currently FC Cincinnati with odds of +400 which would see a return of $25 from $5. 

Messi gets his MLS career off to a successful start
How has Lionel Messi's Move Impacted the MLS? 5

In what was a big upset according to many sportsbooks, Messi gets his MLS career off to a successful start!

Source: CNN

The thing is, with those states recently making sports betting legal before Messi joined the MLS, other states will see how much profit can be made from this move and follow suit. According to projections, it can be said that nearly every state has considered legalizing sports betting, but it has met opposition in some states and some estimations are suggesting that since the bill was overturned, Americans have legally wagered over $220 billion. That money has generated over $17 billion in revenue for sportsbooks and around $3 billion in state or local taxes. Seeing the remaining states jump on it over the next 3-5 years wouldn’t surprise me. 

So, football fans. How many of you have found yourselves with a sudden interest in the MLS? If you have, was that influenced by Messi moving over to the MLS from PSG? Or was it just a complete coincidence that you’ve had a growing interest? If you’re an MLS fan now, which colours are you representing? Did you follow Messi to Inter Miami? Are you a classic LA Galaxy fan? Or are you picking one of the minnows, like Toronto FC? One thing is for sure, the MLS is on the rise and with big names like Messi joining the ranks, you can safely assume that more players will follow the GOAT. More players from South America have already begun following in his footsteps, it’s only a matter of time before more players from Europe join.

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