Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, currently one of the world’s highest-paid athletes with a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, is set to make his debut with Major League Soccer (MLS) club Inter Miami CF on July 21. Messi’s move comes after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, with the managing owner of Inter Miami CF, Jorge Mas, confirming the news, despite no formal contract yet signed. Inter Miami CF is set to face Cruz Azul in a Leagues Cup match at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. To accommodate the anticipated influx of Messi fans, the club is increasing the stadium’s seating capacity by approximately 3,000 seats.
The Messi Impact: Pre and Post Messi Era in American Soccer
As Mas said to the Miami Herald, “There will always be a ‘before and after Messi’ when we talk about the sport in the United States. Having the world’s greatest player here is significant for our league and for the football ecosystem in the United States. Lionel Messi is coming to this country to win cups and make a difference.” The arrival of Messi signals a new chapter for the MLS, and arguably, American football, as the sport grows in popularity. Mas stressed the club is ready to welcome the Argentine star, having experienced the ‘Messi mania’ firsthand when Argentina trained in Miami before heading over to Doha for the 2022 World Cup.
Messi’s Compensation Package: A Game Changer
In an unexpected twist, Messi’s compensation package with Inter Miami CF, reported to be worth $50-60 million per year, surpasses that of any National Football League (NFL) player. This includes a signing bonus, salary, and, crucially, equity in the franchise, a perk no NFL player has. This marks a significant deviation from the norms of player compensation in American sports. While NFL continues to be the dominant sport in the U.S., its salary cap system, a consequence of the landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement, restricts player earnings in the name of team financial balance. On the contrary, the MLS’s Beckham Rule, which allows exceptions to the salary cap to attract star players, works in Messi’s favor.
The Greater Picture: MLS vs. NFL
In the grand scheme of American sports, Messi’s move could spark a conversation about player compensation. The fact that an aging soccer player will earn more than top NFL players, plus receive a piece of an ever-appreciating asset, could change perspectives on the earning potential in sports. The Beckham Rule is an MLS-specific policy that might not be possible in the NFL due to the lack of competition from leagues in other countries. Nonetheless, Messi’s arrival and the resulting compensation structure may trigger debates about the fairness of salary caps.
The Road Ahead
While Messi’s contract is worth $50 million to $60 million per year, he cannot sign until July, after his Paris Saint-Germain contract expires. There are no changes to the MLS rules to accommodate Messi’s arrival. Looking forward, Inter Miami plans to start construction on Miami Freedom Park, the team’s long-term home near Miami International Airport, in the next two weeks. The stadium is expected to open in the summer or fall of 2025. Additional measures, such as enhanced security and bussing players into the stadium for games, are also planned. The anticipation for Messi’s debut is palpable, with Mas stating, “Every game will be sold out. The demand for tickets has been 10 times what we can handle on a season ticket basis.”
A Historic Move for American Soccer
Indeed, Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami CF is historic, not just for the club but also for the MLS and American soccer as a whole. It signals the growing influence and global appeal of the league, particularly for attracting big-name international stars, while simultaneously presenting the possibility of changing the narrative surrounding player compensation and equity in American sports.
The upcoming debut of Lionel Messi in Inter Miami CF’s match against Cruz Azul at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will be a significant moment in the history of American soccer. With Messi’s transfer, the soccer landscape in America is poised to change dramatically. The anticipation of Messi’s debut and the resulting increase in ticket demand underline the Argentine star’s global appeal. As the MLS continues to grow in popularity, Messi’s presence is set to boost this further, enhancing the global reputation of American soccer. Messi’s unique compensation package also sets a precedent that could potentially lead to changes in the way athletes are compensated in the U.S., especially when compared to dominant sports like the NFL. While it is too early to predict the full impact of Messi’s move, it is clear that this is a significant moment in the history of American sports. Overall, Messi’s move to Inter Miami CF is a game-changer – for the club, the MLS, and potentially, American sports as a whole. It marks a new chapter in Messi’s illustrious career, in the growth of Inter Miami CF, and in the evolution of soccer in the Unite.
Following Lionel Messi’s impressive debut, fans are already anticipating his potential future with Inter Miami, a topic we explore in our related article.