There are reminders around the city of Miami of Lionel Messi’s impending arrival: A mural of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner painted with pink and black Inter Miami colors in the artsy Wynwood neighborhood. Another painting of the football star at the entrance of a local Argentinian restaurant. No. 10 Argentina jerseys sprinkled throughout the city. (More Football News)
Messi, who turned 36 this month, announced on June 7 that he was joining Inter Miami in a move that stunned the football world and will bring one of the sport’s biggest names to the United States and Miami, where enthusiasm for the sport has been growing.
Messi, who spent the past two years with Paris Saint-Germain, is still finalizing paperwork with his new club. He is expected to make his Inter Miami debut on July 21 at home against Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup.
The move is hoped to provide a huge boost to attendance and interest in Major League Soccer ahead of the 2026 World Cup, part of which will be hosted in the U.S., as well as for Inter Miami, a club led by another global football icon, David Beckham, that is looking to garner the same popularity as other sports franchises in South Florida.
“He’s going to be able to leave this wonderful legacy, and it’s a legacy that couldn’t be better timed,” said Anson Dorrance, who’s in his 47th season as the women’s football coach at North Carolina. “We’re going to be hosting the next World Cup on the men’s side. ... And a part of constructing a platform to make sure we sell out every stadium is to make sure our top men’s professional league, the MLS, is also selling out all of our stadiums.”
The league is already getting there. Ticket prices for Inter Miami matches have skyrocketed since Messi’s announcement and teams are already selling additional tickets to future matches against the club.
According to data provided by Vivid Seats, a ticket marketplace, the average listed price for Inter Miami’s match against Cruz Azul jumped from $126 on June 6 (one day before Messi’s announcement) to $2,151 on June 20 — a 1,607% increase.
Site traffic, the company said, increased by 27,037% from June 6 to June 7.
On SeatGeek, another ticket exchange site, the average ticket to watch an Inter Miami match was $34 on June 6. On June 7, it was $178, according to data provided by the company.
“Messi is one of the greatest athletes of all time, and he is attracting huge demand for the chance to see him play in Miami and across the U.S.,” said Chris Leyden, SeatGeek’s director of growth marketing. “He joins the likes of LeBron (James) and (Tom) Brady when it comes to having such an immediate and dramatic effect on ticket demand after moving teams. Messi’s situation is particularly unique in that a lot of U.S. fans have a chance to see him live for the first time ever.”
Messi chose Miami over Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, where many thought he would go and follow longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo. Returning to Barcelona, a storied franchise where he spent most of his career, was also an option, but Messi said when he announced his decision that he wanted to go to the United States to “live football in another way.”
In more than 17 years of representing Argentina at the international stage, Messi has scored 102 goals against 38 different national team opponents. One of the greatest scorers in the sport’s history, Messi scored twice in last year’s World Cup final against France, a match that Argentina won on penalty kicks to give Messi one more accomplishment on his resume.
“This is going to stimulate everything about footbal in this country,” Dorrance said of the move.
Messi will join a struggling club that is last in the Eastern Conference with a 5-13 record. Inter Miami recently fired its coach, Phil Neville, after 2 1/2 seasons.
Messi will have another Barcelona star at his side in Miami. Barcelona captain and former teammate Sergio Busquets will join the team this summer, as it recently confirmed via social media.
Ahead of his arrival, Inter Miami is increasing capacity at DRV PNK Stadium by roughly 3,000 seats in the next four weeks by filling in the corners, raising capacity to about 22,000.