Lionel Messi boosts Major League Soccer, but Major League Soccer needs more

Superstar Lionel Messi has played just under 10 matches in the US men’s professional soccer league, and has had unprecedented impacts.

Messi joined Major League Soccer club Inter Miami in late July, which led to higher ticket prices and the markets the team has visited so far. His signing broke records for shirt and merchandise sales. TV and live broadcast viewership skyrocketed.

“I don’t want to say we underestimated Messi’s coming into Major League Soccer, but it’s had an incredible impact on our league at all points,” said Camilo Durana, executive vice president of Apple Partnerships, Property and Events.

However, although Messi had an unprecedented impact on Major League Soccer, which was founded in the 1990s, it was not enough to catch up with other, more famous professional sports leagues in the United States such as the NFL and the NBA, in terms of Viewership and ratio. Ticket prices.

“The MLS needs more Messi,” sports consultant Lee Burke said, pointing to the MLS’ history of bringing in stars like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry at the end of their careers and attracting more fans and viewers in those moments.

On top of competition from other, more established top-tier leagues, Saudi Arabia has also joined the player-recruitment mix with hefty offers of cash from the Public Investment Fund, Including Messi. Brazilian soccer star Neymar recently I accepted Presentation, following football legends Cristiano Ronaldo And Karim Benzemacontracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Messi effect

Argentine star join Major League Soccer in July, after winning the 2022 World Cup. Messi left the French club Paris Saint-Germain after he reluctantly left. Exit FC Barcelona in 2021 – his home since signing with the team aged 13.

The 36-year-old, often seen as the sport’s “goat” or “the all-time greatest”, is nearing retirement and giving Major League Soccer – still in its infancy compared to other American leagues – a much-needed boost to her. .

Supporters of Argentine soccer player Leo Messi gather outside Inter Miami DRV Pnk Stadium, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, July 11, 2023.

Marco Bello | Reuters

Since joining, Inter Miami has risen to the top-selling MLS team, from 13th on StubHub.

A company spokesperson said that since joining Inter Miami, Messi has become the best-selling player in all sports on Fanatics, a digital sports platform that sells equipment and team merchandise. Since Messi joined Inter Miami, the team has sold more merchandise than they did in all of 2022 on Fanatics. It was a boost for MLS Home TV on Apple’s streaming service.

Major League Soccer’s Durana also said the spike in ticket sales came immediately when Messi announced his intention to sign with the league. “The best thing about it is that he came to play,” Dorana said of Messi’s stats since his arrival.

Messi so far only played in the newly expanded League Cup, a tournament between MLS North America and Mexico’s Liga MX, and the semi-final match of the United States Cup. Inter Miami won the League Cup on August 19, Messi Scored At least one goal in all seven matches he played.

On Saturday, Messi will play his first regular season game against the Red Bulls in Harrison, New Jersey, about a 30-minute train ride west of Manhattan.

“These are numbers you don’t normally see in an MLS game,” said Marc de Grandpre, general manager of the New York Red Bulls, regarding ticket sales. He added that many people who are not fans will come to the arena just to see Messi.

Looking to ride this wave, teams are paying season tickets as a surefire way to see Inter Miami play again next season at face value.

Ticket prices have gone up on the secondary market. The average price for an Inter Miami ticket on StubHub is $161, roughly 64% higher than the league average. Ticket sales for matches at the national level also rose.

The average ticket price for the Major League Soccer is $98, while the average ticket price for the League Cup in general is $152. And for matches played by Messi, the average ticket price is more than double the $329 price tag, according to StubHub.

While this has been a boon for MLS, these stats still lag behind the NFL and NBA.

“It’s hard to compare this to other sports. Yes, what we’re seeing in NFL game prices for Messi games is unprecedented. But if you look at the average ticket prices for NFL games on Sunday, that’s still the best with this,” he said. the meaning”. StubHub spokesperson Adam Bodelli.

Anytime tom brady – who retired و From the NFL earlier this year – he was on the road for his last few seasons with Tampa Bay before retiring, and StubHub has seen ticket prices and demand skyrocket in those markets as well. Or when it was LeBron James Chase Historic NBA scoring record earlier this year.

“The average ticket prices are still three times what we see for Messi matches so far this year,” Bodelli said.

We play zigita

As with ticket sales, viewership for Major League Soccer games lags far behind the American professional sports leagues.

DisneyESPN middle 14.8 million viewers for every NFL game last season While 34 regular season Major League Soccer games were broadcast in 2022 on ABC and ESPN middle 343,000 viewers. This marks the highest viewership for MLS across Disney Networks since 2007.

Determining viewership for this season is tricky given that the majority of MLS games are exclusively on Apple’s streaming service.

“This is a live-only package. If there is a strong TV presence, Messi’s games will find their way into prime time slots and get high viewership,” said sports advisor Burke.

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waves to the crowd as he exits the field after defeating the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Adam Glanzmann | Getty Images

Apple and MLS Occurred A 10-year deal to broadcast matches began this season. Matches can be accessed through the MLS Season Pass, a standalone service and add-on for the Apple TV+ streaming service.

The partnership is only months old, but MLS said subscribers have doubled since Messi’s arrival, and Spanish-language viewership on the MLS Season Pass has exceeded 50% for Messi’s matches.

that apple The representative of the company referred to comments made by Apple CEO Tim Cook during a recent earnings call, and Jorge Maas, managing owner of Inter Miami, on Xthe platform formerly known as Twitter, in connection with MLS live subscribers since Messi’s arrival.

“Obviously this is in the early days, but we exceeded our expectations in terms of subscribers, and the fact that Messi went to Inter Miami helped us achieve that a little bit,” Cook said during the August earnings call.

MLS’ Durana said the MLS media rights deal with Apple came at a time when the league saw an opportunity with its young fanbase, which tends to lean toward streaming. Since the League Pass is also available globally, it allows MLS to expand its fan base across the borders of the United States, where unlike in the United States, soccer is the dominant professional sport.

MLS has signed a four-year contract to broadcast some of its games on traditional television networks, which includes select regular season, League Cup and MLS games.

League Cup games averaged 680,000 viewers, higher than the average for all MLS postseason games ever, according to Nielsen. In all, 13.6 million people watched the League Cup matches.

For the few matches shown on traditional TV this season, the MLS averages 250,000 viewers so far.

And while media companies are still figuring out the economics of streaming — and how to make it profitable — sports have remained a driver of viewership on broadcast and pay-TV. The lucrative fees generated by media rights deals have supported the leagues and teams, often allowing them to invest more in players.

Burke added, “You need to invest in more players. And in order to do that, the economics of the league have to change.” “And it’s not easy when other leagues, and now the Saudis, are spending money on top players as well.”

Major League Soccer’s Durana noted that the league has spent billions to invest in its clubs, from players to stadiums, while increasing the number of its followers. De Grandpre of the Red Bulls said that Messi validates the growth of Major League Soccer and its presence on a global scale.

“Now I think we will see more players wanting to come and join this league and over time that will help us build on that momentum,” de Grandpre said.

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