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Lionel Messi: Inter Miami Forward Is ‘Gripping’ United States, Says Guillem Balague3 min read

Lionel Messi: Inter Miami Forward Is ‘Gripping’ United States, Says Guillem Balague<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">3</span> min read</span>
  Roll up, roll up and welcome to the Lionel Messi show, currently the hottest ticket in the USA. A flash in the pan or finally a changing of the guard in American sport? America is in the grip of Messi madness after he signed for Inter Miami from Paris St-Germain in the summer. Football in the country has been here before. But never quite like this. His move to the United States was as reasoned, calculated and well planned as his departure from Barcelona to Paris was clumsy, rushed and unwelcome.
  • Lionel Messi: Destiny – watch behind-the-scenes documentary on iPlayer
The timing could not have been better with the Copa America taking place there next year and the final set to be played in Miami at the Hard Rock Stadium on July 14. The Club World Cup is due to be held in the States in 2025, and what will be the biggest World Cup yet is coming to the USA, Canada and Mexico in 2026. When it comes to a well-oiled machine looking to promote and grow a brand, nobody does it better than the USA. With all this marked in, plus the possibility that the country could also be hosting the next Women’s World Cup in 2027, it’s safe to say that if football – sorry, soccer – doesn’t take off in the USA after all that, then it is difficult to imagine when it ever will. Will the arrival into Major League Soccer of Messi, regarded by many as the greatest player in the history of the game, finally burn an indelible brand into America’s sports-mad psyche and establish its place alongside team sports like American football, basketball or baseball, or will it turn out to be another false dawn?

How has Messi’s arrival changed Inter Miami and the MLS?

If there’s one thing American sports fans adore more than the teams they support it is the passion they feel for superstars playing for them. Think Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky and you get the idea. Now add the name Lionel Messi. The New York Red Bulls have offered a special offer holiday ticket promotion involving next season’s home opener and the derby against rival New York City FC. But there’s a catch. If the first match sees them drawn against Inter Miami, it won’t count as part of the deal. Written in small print alongside the offer are the words, “If RBNY plays Inter Miami CF in the home opener, each home opener ticket will be replaced with a ticket to RBNY’s 2nd home match.” The name ‘Lionel Messi’ doesn’t feature but then it doesn’t really have to. Surely no team will be including Inter Miami tickets in cheap seats deals in the new season. No-one at club or league level was prepared for the effect Messi’s signing would have on them. Season ticket packages for next season are coming out at double what they were in 2023, which makes Inter Miami one of the most expensive tickets in the world – and this for a league not generally considered to be among the top level worldwide. The club’s Instagram account has gone from one million followers to 15 million. If you want to catch the little magician when Inter Miami play away from home be prepared to dig deep. For example, if you had wanted to watch Columbus Crew this year you could do so for as little as $40. Next season they will be charging a minimum of $382 for a seat in the ‘nosebleed’ section for the visit of Inter Miami, going up to $680. If you happened to be in Orlando visiting Mickey Mouse and fancied catching a game, then last season you could have watched the locals for around $97. If you’re in town when Leo visits Orlando City next season, be prepared to shell out more than $1,500 for a seat on the secondary market.