On Tuesday, the international sports world was hit with cannonball news when one of the all-time greats, Lionel Messi, announced that he had a new home after spending 17 seasons with FC Barcelona. The Argentinian forward is heading to Paris Saint-Germain to team up with two other football sensations, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
While on paper PSG might now boast one of the greatest trios of forwards to ever play the game and the Champions League shutters in fear, sure the decision seems sound. But could Messi have even made a bigger, more bold splash than jumping to PSG? He absolutely could have, and heck, he still can when his two-year contract with the French club expires in 2023.
Leo Messi, it’s time to hop back across the pond and play your remaining years in America as part of the MLS. Now before purists of the “beautiful game” jump all over the idea of this, pump the breaks a bit. First off, Messi is now already tied to PSG through his age 36 season. This puts him in prime form to terrorize Ligue 1 in France and UEFA Champions League for a couple of more years while still in the dimming years of his golden prime.
In terms of quality of competition, of course, the MLS isn’t quite up to par with any of the main leagues overseas, but the league is growing, both in talent and in popularity here in the U.S. In fact, since 2007, the league has seen a boost in average attendance every season while also seeing a growth in franchises from just 10 teams to the 25 the league currently boasts. That includes big market additions such as Miami, Atlanta, and Austin, with more to follow soon.
But it goes beyond that; think about the last time an international superstar took a leap of faith and headed to the MLS. David Beckham’s move to the LA Galaxy shocked the sports world. While it didn’t immediately turn professional soccer into a top-tier sport in the U.S., it definitely was effective for the league. The numbers back it up because Beckham’s first season was in 2007, right when the MLS began its continued growth surge it has had ever since.
But it also proved to benefit Beckham, who grew his fame to a whole new section of folks in America. In the current day in age, branding is crucial for global superstars, and while Messi is consistently listed as one of the Top 3 most famous athletes in the world, a move to the MLS down the line can only add to that perhaps even grow his brand even more.
So Messi, do what you do. Dazzle on the pitch and grow your legend for another two years in Europe. When your contract expires, and you are looking for a swan song on your unbelievable career, we will be waiting for you in America. Messi to the MLS, time to make it happen.