Lionel Messi after scoring against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium on August 06, 2023 in Frisco, Texas.
Logan Reilly | Getty Images
Superstar Lionel Messi has only played less than 10 games in the American Men’s Professional Football League and his impact has been seen like never before.
Messi joined Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami CF in late July, leading to an increase in ticket prices and the markets the team has visited so far. His signing led to record-breaking sales of jerseys and merchandise. TV and streaming viewership grew.
“I don’t want to say we underestimated Messi coming into MLS, but he’s been incredibly influential at all points for our league,” said Camilo Durana, executive vice president of club services and fan development at MLS.
Nevertheless, although Messi has had a phenomenal impact on MLS, which was founded in the 1990s, it is not enough to match other major professional sports leagues in the US such as the NFL and NBA in terms of viewership. ticket prices.
Sports consultant Lee Burke noted MLS’s history of bringing in stars such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry towards the end of their careers and attracting more fans and spectators in those moments, saying “MLS needs more Messi.” Is required.”
In addition to competition from other, more established leagues for top players, Saudi Arabia has also become involved in recruiting players with offers of huge amounts of cash from its public investment fund. with messi, Brazilian football star Neymar recently Accepted A proposal following the legends of football Cristiano Ronaldo And Karim BenzemaWith contracts worth millions of dollars.
argentina superstar got included in MLS in July, after World Cup victory in 2022. Messi reluctantly leaves Paris Saint-Germain popping out FC Barcelona in 2021 – his home since signing with the team at the age of 13.
The 36-year-old, often regarded as the “goat” or “greatest of all time” in the sport, is nearing his retirement and giving MLS – which is still considered to be in its infancy compared to other US leagues – a much-needed encouragement .
Supporters of Argentine soccer player Leo Messi gather outside Inter Miami DRV Punk Stadium on July 11, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Marco Bello | reuters
Since joining, Inter Miami became the best-selling MLS team for tickets on StubHub from 13th place.
A spokesperson for the company said that since joining Inter Miami, Messi has been the best-selling player across all sports on Fanatics, a digital sports platform that sells gear and team merchandise. Since Messi joined Inter Miami, the team has sold more merchandise on Fanatics than in 2022. And he’s promoting Apple TV+, the TV home of MLS.
MLS’s Durana also noted that there was a jump in ticket sales immediately after Messi announced his intention to sign with the league. “And the best thing is that he came to play,” said Durana about Messi’s statistics since his arrival.
Messi has so far only played in the newly expanded league cup, a tournament between two North American leagues MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX, and a US Cup semifinal game. Inter Miami won the League Cup on 19 August and Messi scored runs At least one goal in all seven games he has played.
On Saturday, Messi will play his first regular season game against the Red Bulls in Harrison, New Jersey, about a 30-minute train trip west of Manhattan.
In regards to ticket sales, New York Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpré said, “These are numbers we don’t normally see in an MLS match.” He said that many people who are not fans would come to the ground just to watch Messi.
To ride this wave, teams are clamoring for season tickets as a surefire way to see Inter Miami play again at face value next season.
Ticket prices have skyrocketed in the secondary market. The average ticket price for Inter Miami on StubHub is $161, which is approximately 64% higher than the league average. Match-up ticket sales nationwide are also on the rise.
The overall average price for an MLS ticket is up to $98, while the average ticket price for the League’s Cup was $152. According to StubHub, the average ticket price for the games Messi has played in has more than doubled to $329.
Although this is a boon for MLS, these statistics still lag behind the NFL and NBA.
“It’s hard to compare it to other sports. Yes, what we’re seeing in MLS’ pricing for Messi games is phenomenal. But if you look at the average ticket prices for NFL Sunday games, it’s still well below that.” Meaning is king,” said StubHub spokesman Adam Budelli.
Tom Brady Anytime – Who retired While on the road during his last few seasons with Tampa Bay — before retiring from the NFL earlier this year — StubHub also saw an increase in ticket prices and demand in those markets. or when lebron james was chasing up The NBA’s all-time scoring record earlier this year.
“The average ticket prices were still three times what we’re seeing for Messi games so far this year,” Budelli said.
Like ticket sales, viewership of MLS games lags far behind those of professional American sports leagues.
disneyESPN Average It drew 14.8 million viewers per NFL game last season. While 34 regular season MLS matchups aired on ABC and ESPN’s networks in 2022 Average 343,000 viewers. This marked the highest MLS viewership on Disney’s network since 2007.
Viewership numbers for this season are difficult to determine because most MLS games are exclusively on Apple’s streaming service Apple TV+ in add-on packages.
Sports consultant Burke said, “It’s primarily a streaming-only package. If there was a strong linear TV presence, the Messi games would find their way into key prime-time slots and get higher viewership.”
Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waves to the crowd as he walks off the field after defeating the New England Patriots in a game at Gillette Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Adam Glanzman | Getty Images
apple and mls Put signature on This season began a 10-year deal to broadcast the matches. Matches are accessed through the MLS Season Pass, an add-on to the Apple TV+ streaming service that costs $6.99 per month. The MLS Season Pass costs $12.99 in addition to Apple TV+ and $14.99 on its own.
The partnership is just a few months old, but MLS said subscribers have more than doubled since Messi’s arrival, and viewership for Messi matches in Spanish on MLS Season Pass has grown more than 50%.
One Apple The representative pointed to comments made by Apple CEO Tim Cook and Inter Miami managing owner George Maas during recent earnings calls. on xIn relation to MLS streaming subscribers since the arrival of Messi, the platform was formerly known as Twitter.
“It’s obviously early days, but in terms of customers we’re continuing to outperform our expectations and Messi going to Inter Miami helped us a little bit there,” Cook said during the August earnings call.
MLS’s Durana said MLS’s media rights deal with Apple TV+ came as the league saw an opportunity with its young fan base, which leans toward streaming. Since League Pass is also available globally, it allows MLS to expand its fan base beyond American borders, unlike in the US where soccer is generally the dominant professional sport.
MLS signed a four-year deal to broadcast some of its matches on traditional TV networks, including select regular season games, the League Cup and the MLS Cup.
According to Nielsen, League Cup matches averaged 680,000 viewers, which is higher than the average for the MLS postseason so far. In total, 13.6 million people watched the League Cup games.
For the few games this season that have appeared on traditional TV, MLS has averaged 250,000 viewers so far.
As media companies are still figuring out the economics of streaming — and how to make it profitable — sports remain a driver of viewership on broadcast and pay TV. And the lucrative fees from media rights deals have pushed leagues and teams forward, often allowing them to invest more heavily in players.
Burke said, “You need to invest in more players. To do that, the economics of the league need to change.” “And it’s not easy when other leagues and now even the Saudis are throwing money at top players.”
MLS’s Durana said the league has invested billions in its clubs, from players to stadiums, as its following grows. De Grandpré of the Red Bulls said Messi validates MLS’s growth and presence on a global scale.
“Now I think we will see more players coming and wanting to join this league and that will help us keep this momentum going over time,” de Grandpré said.