Follow Drew Farmer on his Substack – https://drewfarmer.substack.com/
North America is going wild in the streets for Lionel Messi. The Argentine hit the South Florida coast like a category-five hurricane, destroying everything and leaving a path of destruction in his wake.
The media’s attention on Major League Soccer since Messi’s signing was announced has been tremendous. Social media has gone bananas, with soccer fans in North America posting about everything the World Cup winner does on and off the pitch.
In two matches for Inter Miami CF, both in the Leagues Cup competition (a tournament featuring MLS teams and Liga MX teams), Messi has three goals and an assist. It is a great return.
The average soccer fan in the United States is being overwhelmed by the sport right now. Summer means big-time friendlies in the U.S. played by teams from Europe. Messi is competing to get eyes on MLS, or so far, the Leagues Cup. While Inter Miami have played in the second-tier cup competition, the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, and other European clubs have crisscrossed North America playing games.
Messi’s debut saw a trademark free-kick goal in the dying seconds to secure a 2-1 win against Mexico’s Cruz Azul. He followed it up with two goals against Atlanta United in a 4-0 win. Both matches were in the above-mentioned Leagues Cup. The competition could lead to Inter Miami winning a trophy, although it isn’t the most important piece of silverware in MLS, which is the MLS Cup.
The DRV PNK Stadium was packed to the rafters for his debut against Cruz Azul. Against Atlanta United, there were plenty of empty seats visible around the stadium as attendance dropped off.
The reason wasn’t due to fans being tired of Messi already. No, fans were priced out of watching the former Barcelona player. It isn’t just the club selling the tickets for ludicrous prices. Ticket reselling companies, who are on the list of shithouses like payday loans companies, have jacked the price of tickets up to astronomical fees. Large swaths of seats may have been empty, but only because the ticket resellers couldn’t move on the seats they previously purchased.
According to World Soccer Talk, Inter Miami’s average home match ticket price soared 690% following Messi’s signing. The average price of an Inter Miami-Cruz Azul ticket before Messi’s arrival was $39.81. After the announcement that Messi had signed, the average ticket cost $342.28. Cash-grab.
Ticket prices aren’t just insane for Miami home games. Fans around the league will have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to see Messi play on the road, too.
In 2007, I was living in the U.S. when David Beckham joined LA Galaxy. It was an equally insane time for soccer in the country. The biggest difference between then and now is the coverage of the sport. It is covered far more today than it was 15 years ago.
In the wake of Beckham joining LA, teams increased ticket prices for their matches against the Beckham-led Galaxy. Some even changed venues to host matches in larger NFL stadiums. I purchased a ticket to see the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting KC) play the Galaxy at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
I likely paid double or triple for my previous Wizards tickets for the 2007 season. In the end, Beckham was injured and didn’t play the match. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as I’d taken a new job and moved abroad.
Despite the media hype and soccer fans’ excitement in North America over Messi’s arrival, across the pond, I couldn’t care less. Indeed, I’ve not come across anyone over the last four weeks interested in Messi’s arrival. Sure, I have seen the occasional Inter Miami shirt worn around town, and I know at least one dad that bought his son a Messi-Miami shirt, but no one I know is signing up for MLS Season Pass and watching games.
In May, Wrexham won the National League, the fifth tier of English soccer, achieving promotion to League 2. Despite being at the fifth level of soccer, I was asked incessantly about Wrexham by friends and family in the States. So far, I haven’t spoken to any friends or family back in the U.S. excited about the Messi joining MLS. This shows just how MLS is perceived in the States by a large part of the population – soccer fans or not.
Yet, this isn’t the reason I’m not interested in Messi or Inter Miami. Although I recognize Messi as the world’s greatest player – at least the greatest I’ve ever watched – I’m not bothered to watch him play in a league he will walk through.
Watching the highlights of Inter Miami’s 4-0 win over Atlanta United showed the quality difference between Messi and the rest of the league. Inter Miami’s additional signings of Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba only increase the quality of the team. Messi will waltz through defenses in a league in which defense was bad to start with.
Let’s be honest, Inter Miami are the worst team in MLS by a mile, at least before Messi. As I’ve previously written elsewhere, the Herons have been a dumpster fire since joining the league in 2020. Miami took 18 points from their opening 22 games this season. No team took fewer points in their first 22 matches in the league.
As it stands, Inter Miami are 12 points off the final Eastern Conference playoff place. The postseason is not guaranteed for the Herons, but they have at least one game in hand over the teams in front of them. Still, Miami must win their final 12 matches to have any hope of qualifying for the playoffs. It seems like an impossible task. But watching Messi ballet dance through Atlanta United on Tuesday night makes it look possible. Once the team qualifies for the playoffs, anything can happen.
When Messi signed his Inter Miami contract, the team had won just five of their 22 games this season in MLS. The Leagues Cup provides some distraction for the team. It is almost like a preseason for Messi and Busquets, although neither looked like they needed it against Atlanta.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Inter Miami won the MLS Cup this season. Sure, they are in last place, but with the world’s greatest-ever player, it could happen in a league of players far from his quality. A quick look at Bet365’s odds on the MLS Cup outright winner and Inter Miami have the ninth best of the 29 teams in the league. Remember, this team has the fewest points in the league after 22 games.
Miami’s odds of winning the MLS Cup right now are 21.00 (20/1 in fractional odds or +2000 in American odds). It wouldn’t be a bad punt to take if you have a couple of pounds, or dollars, lying around at home. Still, Messi and Inter Miami offer little interest to me for the rest of the summer, especially with the top leagues slowly starting back in Europe. Perhaps I’ll take those 21.00 and put down a bet on Messi to win the MLS Cup. Maybe that will increase my interest.
For more commentary, follow Drew Farmer on his Substack – https://drewfarmer.substack.com/