Lionel Messi elevates MLS, but growth requires more than one player

Lionel Messi's arrival in the U.S. men's professional soccer league has had a significant impact on Major League Soccer (MLS). Since joining Inter Miami CF in late July, Messi's presence has resulted in a surge in ticket prices, record-breaking jersey and merchandise sales, and increased TV and streaming viewership. Camilo Durana, executive vice president of club services and fan development at MLS, acknowledged the tremendous impact Messi has had on the league.

However, despite Messi's influence, MLS still faces tough competition from more established professional sports leagues in the U.S., such as the NFL and NBA, in terms of viewership and ticket prices. Sports consultant Lee Berke suggests that the MLS needs more star players like Messi to attract more fans and viewership.

In addition to competition from other leagues, MLS also faces competition from Saudi Arabia, which has been recruiting players with lucrative offers from its Public Investment Fund. Players like Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema have accepted offers worth hundreds of millions of dollars to play in Saudi Arabia.

Messi's arrival has undoubtedly given MLS a much-needed boost. Inter Miami, Messi's team, has seen a significant increase in ticket sales and merchandise sales. Furthermore, Messi's presence has contributed to higher viewership on Apple TV+, which has a streaming deal with MLS. However, MLS still lags behind the NFL and NBA in terms of ticket prices and viewership.

While Messi's impact on MLS has been remarkable, there are still challenges to overcome. Viewership for MLS games is significantly lower than that of other professional U.S. sports leagues. The majority of MLS games are exclusively available on Apple TV+, which limits their exposure compared to games aired on traditional TV networks. MLS is working to expand its fan base by targeting its young streaming-oriented audience and by signing media rights deals with traditional TV networks.

Overall, Messi's presence in MLS has brought unprecedented attention and popularity to the league. It remains to be seen if MLS can continue to grow and compete with other established U.S. sports leagues in the long run. The league's success will depend on its ability to attract more star players, increase viewership, and adapt to the changing landscape of media consumption.


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