The Messi Effect : How He affected MLS

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The Messi Effect : How He affected MLS

“Football in the United States will be divided into before and after Messi,” Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas said.

Is this an exaggeration or a reality?

Messi is being followed in MLS by players such as Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, with Luis Suarez also joining the team. It is almost impossible to buy tickets for Inter Miami’s matches in MLS, Inter Miami and MLS have growing social media followers and broadcast buyers.

Effect 1: On social media, Inter are the fifth most famous club in the US

Messi’s most obvious influence is followers across platforms. Not only Inter Miami’s social media accounts have grown (they’ve taken off!), but also MLS and David Beckham’s.

The Inter co-owner had 1.4 million people subscribed to his account in July 2023 (usually no more than a million a month).

It’s helped future rivals, too. Cruz Azul usually gets 4,000-8,000 subscribers a month, in July 2023, it got 12,000, specifically on the day of the match against Inter Miami – plus three thousand people.

Atlanta United gets about a thousand subscribers a month, but in June and July 2023, it gets 5k each, with a +1.5k on the day of the match against Messi.

On the other hand, PSG’s Instagram has dropped from 71 million to 67 million followers – the anti-Messi effect after his departure.

Inter Miami is now one of the most popular clubs in the United States. It is by a margin first in MLS, gains more subscribers than any MLB and NFL club (the most popular sport within the US) and more than almost all NBA clubs.

Effect 2: Inter Miami’s revenues are soaring, too

Sportico estimates that the average MLS club makes $57 million a year (NHL makes $187 million, NBA $303 million, MLB $313 million, NFL $545 million). “Inter Miami is not a leader even in MLS. The club earned 56 million in the 2022 season.

After Messi’s move, Jorge Mas expects annual revenue to double and predicts that the club’s value will break a billion dollars (according to Sportico for 2022, the average MLS team is worth $582 million; the most expensive is Los Angeles – $900 million).

Even with a doubling of revenues, Inter will not become more profitable. Even if Messi brings in $57 million, he will only recoup his salary ($50-60 million annually).

Effect 3: Messi affects league-wide revenues

It’s not just Inter Miami making money on Messi. It’s all the clubs that play against him.

The reason is the unusual system of matchday revenue distribution. All MLS clubs are owned by the league (and shares in the league are owned by club owners), and finances are centralised. The league cares about the income of all clubs, so each must give 10% of matchday revenue for the first 30,000 tickets. And if more than 30,000 people come to a match, a third of all excess attendance revenue has to be shared. So, Chicago Fire will give away several million dollars per matchday against Messi for redistribution to the league.

Messi has impacted another important revenue stream for MLS. Leo shared a link to a season ticket for MLS broadcasts on storis (he has 481 million subscribers). According to Sports Business Journal, Messi’s arrival and social media sharing have brought the league almost 300,000 paid subscriptions: about 700,000, now nearly a million.