How Messi’s Transfer Helps MLS Grow

A Brief Look At The MLS

The inception of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1996 marked a huge milestone in the growth of football (soccer) in North America. The league’s establishment was tied to the United States’ successful bid to host the 1994 World Cup. The move was to leverage the excitement and attention generated by the global football tournament to boost the popularity of football matches within the country. This strategic decision paved the way for MLS to emerge as the premier soccer competition on the continent.

Although MLS may not have achieved the same prestige as established pro-European football leagues like the English Premier League and other top leagues. It has carved out a unique identity and an interesting fan base in the United States and Canada. The league’s strategic growth plan has attracted international attention with renowned players such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Hristo Stoichkov, and now in 2023, Lionel Messi.

Messi’s Move to the MLS

It has always seemed like a fantasy for Messi to join the MLS, specifically Inter Miami. For a while now, Inter Miami and MLS have been unable to rival the competition in Europe or the financial might of the Middle Eastern clubs. But Messi is already in the MLS and has led Inter Miami to their first trophy.

Why MLS and Not Saudi Arabia?

Lionel Messi rejected a bumping offer of £320m-a-year from Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and joined Inter Miami instead. While the Saudi offer was undeniably lucrative, Messi said the decision to join Inter Miami and the MLS was best for him. He said he is at a point where he wants to step out of the spotlight a bit and think more about his family.

“I had two years where I was so unhappy that I didn’t enjoy it. Then I had that spectacular month because of winning the World Cup. Apart from that, it was a difficult period for me. I want to find my joy again, enjoy my family, kids, and day-to-day.”

The Challenge

Messi has always thrived on challenges and pushing his own boundaries. Moving to a new league and making an impact there can be seen as a fresh challenge for him. The prospect of elevating a league’s status, as he did in La Liga with Barcelona, and further enhancing his legacy could have appealed to his competitive nature.

The Competition

The competitive nature of the MLS, while perhaps not at the same level as Europe’s elite leagues, still offers a high level of competition compared to the one in Saudi Arabia.

Beckham’s Influence

The involvement of David Beckham, a football icon with whom Messi shares a personal rapport, played a significant role. Beckham’s vision for Inter Miami and his stature within the sport were compelling factors in Messi’s decision.

Off-Field Opportunities

Being a part of building a successful football club from the ground up and contributing to the growth of football in a nation traditionally focused on other sports was enticing to Messi. Having a stake provides him with a chance to leave a lasting impact beyond his playing days.

The Messi Effect in MLS

The ripple effect of Messi’s arrival in MLS has been nothing short of seismic, with a surge in interest that has resonated far beyond the pitch. One testament to this phenomenon is the meteoric rise in Inter Miami’s Instagram following. According to the sports analytics website –, before the official announcement, the club’s Instagram account had around 1 million followers. However, within four hours of the announcement, that figure skyrocketed by an astounding 1.3 million, highlighting the widespread excitement generated by Messi’s transfer. As of today, the club currently has 14.4 million followers. This surge in social media engagement illustrates the global reach of Messi’s star power, with fans from every corner of the world rallying behind his new chapter in MLS.

Competing With Other American Leagues

Beyond the virtual realm, the tangible financial ramifications are becoming increasingly apparent. Messi’s presence is a catalyst for heightened revenue potential for Inter Miami and the MLS as a whole. This aspect is paramount when juxtaposed against the financial prowess of other major American sports leagues.

Game Day Revenue

The surge in interest is translating into substantial gameday revenue for most MLS teams fortunate enough to host Inter Miami. The prospect of witnessing Messi’s magic up close has spurred ticket sales and an enthusiastic turnout in stadiums across the league. The phenomenon extends to the commercial realm, with Messi’s jerseys becoming highly coveted items among fans, often selling out due to the overwhelming demand.

Impact On His Teammates

The arrival of Lionel Messi at Inter Miami has not only transformed the club’s on-field prospects but has also sparked a profound shift in the team’s culture and work ethic. One of the most noticeable changes has been the eagerness of players to arrive at training earlier than ever before.

The sight of Messi, often one of the first players to arrive at training, has motivated his teammates to follow suit. The influence extends beyond punctuality. Messi’s commitment has led to more intense and focused training sessions. Players are investing extra time to refine their techniques, enhance their tactical understanding, and build stronger camaraderie on and off the field.

Bringing In New Talents Across The World

As Messi steps onto MLS turf, he not only brings his unparalleled skill but also his reputation. This spotlight inherently shines on MLS, drawing the attention of players who might have never previously considered the league as a viable career option.

As more top-tier players are enticed to play in MLS, the overall talent pool of the league deepens. When teams compete against football legends, they are pushed to raise their standards of play, both in terms of individual performance and collective tactics. This heightened competition fosters an environment where players are challenged to constantly improve, leading to a league-wide elevation of skill, performance, and a translation in how the game is perceived.


Lionel Messi’s transition to Major League Soccer (MLS) has marked a pivotal juncture in the evolution of football in North America. Since its inception in 1996, MLS has grown from a strategic response to the World Cup’s popularity into a distinct and big football entity. While it may not yet command the same global prestige as its European counterparts, MLS has carved out its identity and steadily expanded its fan base in the United States and Canada.