Lionel Messi’s impact on American “football”

“Could it have been — any other way? Magnificent!” These are the words of Major League Soccer announcer Jake Zivin after Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi scored his first goal in the MLS for Inter Miami CF.

The 36-year-old left-winger has played in many venues all over the world for both club and country throughout his career.

Messi began professionally in 2004, when he joined Futbol Club Barcelona in the Spanish football league La Liga. He played at the club from 2004 until 2021, posting 520 appearances and 474 goals during his time in Spain.

He made the move to Paris Saint Germain FC, a French club in Ligue 1, in 2021. After 22 goals in 58 appearances, he left the club in 2023.

What Messi is possibly most known for is his time with the Argentina National Team. In 175 appearances, Messi has totaled 103 goals for his home country. 

In 2022, Argentina won the iconic FIFA World Cup against the French National Team, sealing Lionel Messi’s name amongst the greatest to play the game.

Now, Messi is playing in the MLS for Inter Miami, in a country where soccer is the fifth most popular major sport, behind football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey.

So why would a generational talent in soccer leave one of the most competitive soccer leagues in the world? Why did Messi come to a league with ess competition after his decorated career?

Not to mention, Messi also turned down a billion-dollar contract to play in Saudi Arabia.

According to Messi, he came to Miami to allow his family to enjoy their lives. He also came to America for a more relaxed lifestyle.

The owner of Inter Miami, David Beckham, said Messi coming to America was “an opportunity to change the sport.”

In just 11 games Messi has appeared for Inter Miami, he has scored 11 goals and added five assists to his name.

It took the Argentinian 19 games to score three goals for FC Barcelona, and it took him six games to do so at PSG.

At Inter Miami, it took Messi just 58 minutes to score 3 goals. 

For the foreseeable future, the U.S. gets to watch Messi elevate the talent of the MLS to a level that the league has never truly seen before.

The MLS has also seen a significant increase in the amount of viewers in their games.

The organization said Apple TV subscribers have more than doubled since Messi’s arrival to the U.S., and Spanish-language viewership on MLS Season Pass has increased 50% for Messi’s matches. 

Messi’s first match for Inter Miami was a part of an event called the League’s Cup, where clubs from both the MLS and the Mexican League, Liga MX competed in group stage matches and a knockout stage, consisting of five rounds.

League’s Cup games had an average viewership of 680,000 people. In total, 13.6 million people tuned into the tournament.

For regular season matches in the MLS that were broadcast on national television before Messi’s arrival, the average viewership was 250,000 viewers.

Not only is the left-winger changing the sport for the country, he is changing the culture that surrounds it.