Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami has been a smash hit both on and off the pitch for the MLS club. Major League Soccer via USA TODAY Sports
Inter Miami CF has never been more popular, even though they have only won over 41% of their regular-season games. Messi Mania, with its transfer saga, long-winded unveiling, League Cup debut, and dominance-in-progress, seems destined to split league history into “pre-and post-Pulga” as Miami surrounds the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner with former Barcelona tiki-taka players.
Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham said at an Adidas news conference the day before Lionel Messi’s first game with the MLS team: “The future of soccer in America is so bright.” “I’ve watched it grow over the past 10–15 years… Bringing someone like Messi to Inter Miami, the MLS, and America means a lot. Not just Latin America, but the whole world is watching Miami.”
When it was announced that soccer’s all-time best player would be moving to South Beach after almost four years of courtship, Google searches for Inter Miami increased by more than 1,200% worldwide.
“When Lionel Messi announced that he was moving to Inter Miami,” said Gene Cook, vice president of global collectibles at eBay, “searches for his collectibles, like trading cards and memorabilia, went up by over 75% the next day on eBay… globally.”
Messi’s first games in Miami caused ticket prices to jump by more than 1,000% on the secondary market. On July 20, the day before Messi’s first game, the average Leagues Cup ticket price for the match against Liga MX’s Cruz Azul was $712. Vivid Seats says that between June 4 and June 7, when he said he was joining the Herons, the average price of a Cruz Azul game ticket went up by 205%, from $122 to $373.
Fanatics, a digital sports platform and MLS e-commerce partner says that since the news came out that Messi was going to Inter Miami, more team gear has been sold than in all of 2023. During the same period, Inter Miami has been the most popular MLS team at Fanatics, selling 50% more merchandise than the next most popular team.
Fanatics confirmed that the first 24 hours of Messi jersey sales were the best 24 hours of any player changing teams in any sport, beating out Cristiano Ronaldo joining Manchester United in 2021, Tom Brady joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, and LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.
From July 17 to July 20, Inter Miami was the most popular sports team at Fanatics. A source from Fanatics said, “That has never happened to an MLS team.” The day after the Messi news, merchandise sales for Inter Miami went up by 50 times what they were the day before.
The managing owner of Inter Miami, Jorge Mas, said on CNBC’s “Halftime Report” on July 18 that all of the Messi jerseys had been sold. During the same news conference, Rupert Campbell, president of Adidas North America, told reporters, “Jerseys sell out in stores in minutes. That’s why we opened a pop-up store in the middle of Miami.”
Senior Director of Adidas Soccer Tor Southard added, “Every fan who wants a jersey should be able to get one, whether they want to buy it online or at one of our stores. The pink The Heart Beat authentic version jersey with “Messi 10″ costs $194.99 before tax and shipping at the MLS store. As soon as the jerseys arrive, we send them out to fans.”
The official online store for Major League Soccer (MLS) warns buyers that their Messi gear might not arrive until October.
Soccer.com recently told they had sold enough “Messi 10” jerseys for Inter Miami to last for half a year in just one day.
Mas told CNBC that he thinks Messi’s arrival will double Inter Miami’s revenue, which Forbes says will be $56 million in 2022, and value, currently around $600 million. Mas has good reason to be hopeful: This week, the Sports Business Journal said Apple TV had about 700,000 MLS Season Pass subscribers at the beginning of June. That number rose to nearly a million when Messi played his first game against Cruz Azul.
Beckham said, “There have been a lot of changes in MLS over the years.” “When I joined the league in 2007, there were about 15 teams. Now, there are 30. Almost all MLS teams play in stadiums that are made for soccer. The game has gotten harder, and Leo is entering a great situation.”
Even in the world of sports cards, fans were excited about Messi’s arrival: Less than a week after the news came out, a PSA gem-mint 10 2004-05 Panini Sports Megacracks Lionel Messi rookie card sold on the collectibles site Goldin for more than $266,000.
Even at age 36, with a dozen league titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, and World Cup and Copa America trophies for Argentina, Messi has won everything there is to win in global football and more. However, there are still new and lucrative areas to conquer.
Messi still runs the show. We have to deal with it.