It’s a dream come true for MLS Commissioner Don Garber, the arrival of the biggest soccer icon in the world… Lionel Messi. According to David Ornstein of The Athletic, Inter Miami are increasingly optimistic of signing Messi as a free agent next year.
In Argentina it is rumored that Messi has at least three offers right now on the table, a contract renewal with PSG, a return to Barcelona, and an MLS/ Inter Miami offer. Still, it is reported that Messi will not review any offers until after the World Cup as he is 100% committed to win the world title with Argentina.
MLS is no stranger to big names in their own right as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham were global superstars when they arrived in MLS, but Lionel Messi is a superstar that truly has gone beyond what MLS is used to.
Adjusting to life with Messi if he signs with MLS
It’s a lovely problem to have, all the things that come with having Lionel Messi on an MLS side. One of the main issues for Messi will be security, in a recent match with Argentina in New Jersey, the match was stopped three times as fans ran on the field midgame to get an autograph or selfie with the 35-year-old Argentine.
In a recent vacation in Miami, the former Barcelona legend went out to eat only to have over 300 people outside the restaurant looking for an autograph. While with Argentina during an NBA game between the Pacers and Wizards fans flocked to the section the team was sitting to ask for pictures and autographs.
Messi’s global name and face is instantly recognizable, brands like Target piggy backed when the Argentine superstar was buying groceries in Miami and a customer took a picture of Messi looking at items to buy.
While Beckham had Hollywood and brand appeal when he arrived in MLS, Messi would be like Pele when he signed with the Cosmos, an almost fanatical following that will do anything to see the Argentine.
Messi would still be a hot commodity
Even at the tail end of his career, Messi is playing out of this world, in Ligue 1 this season Messi has 7 goals and 10 assists in only 12 matches with PSG. At the Champions League level, Messi is at 4 goals and 3 assists in 4 games, Messi is truly at a peak in his form leading up to Qatar.
While Messi has stated that Qatar 2022 will “most likely” be his last FIFA World Cup, he backpedaled later saying that if he was still playing he could play the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. One thing is for certain, Messi will defend the Copa America title in 2024 with Argentina, he would play that tournament as a Inter Miami/ MLS player.
Messi the MLS holy grail
In many aspects Lionel Messi and MLS is a marriage made in heaven, at the end of his career Messi could still be effective and critical to an Inter Miami team that is slowly turning it around. What MLS can provide Messi with is even more exposure at a point in his career when normal soccer stars begin to see their exposure slow down.
The United State provides endless media and marketing opportunities, former teammate Neymar knew this, when with limited English he appeared on a sketch with Jimmy Kimmel. It has been nine years since Messi has given a major interview in the United States, he did so with 60 minutes. MLS and Messi himself may open up more to “selling” the sport and positing his brand.
Messi’s signing would only add more fuel to the growing fire of Soccer in the United States, as MLS has grown from niche sport to respectable professional league, the 2026 World Cup will have a huge build up and Messi’s presence in the United States can only increase interest in the sport.
If anything, as MLS has recently signed a major streaming video with Apple TV and is still working on a linear TV package for 2023, Messi could help improve MLS ratings, which have seen a slow growth over the years, but still nothing to get advertisers really excited about on a linear and national level.
MLS has waited nearly 30 years for this moment, Zlatan and Beckham were just part of the equation, Messi would be what Jordan was for the NBA, what Ali and Tyson meant to Boxing, and what Pele did for Soccer back in the 1970s under even worse circumstances for the sport.
It’s all in the hands of Jorge Mas, MLS, and Inter Miami now, but never have American fans been so close to seeing Lionel Messi week in and week out, and never has MLS been so close to truly breaking through to a national audience.