A sea of pink at a recent Inter Miami game.
A sea of pink at a recent Inter Miami game.
Samuel Bussel-Alonso ’27

How Messi Is Changing the Landscape of U.S. Soccer

Lionel Messi, the face of the most popular sport on the planet, came to play soccer in Miami on July 21, 2023. Since then, the “Messi effect” has been in full swing, bringing in not only new fans and an increased interest in soccer to Miami, but hundreds of millions of dollars to Miami’s economy.  

With ten La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, and a record 8 Ballons d’Or, he has reached new heights on the field. While in Europe he established himself as one of the world’s most recognizable figures in society. Now, in the US his arrival began an unprecedented interest in viewing and playing the sport. This will not only create a great platform for the United States’ upcoming World Cup in 2026 but also the opportunity for Major League Soccer (MLS) and the US National Team to find success.  

A few months after Messi’s presentation as an Inter Miami player, the MLS commissioner, Don Garber, spoke to the reality that Messi’s transfer has created. He stated, “The eyes of the world are now on Major League Soccer because the best player to ever play the game is here and he’s succeeding.” The Argentine has become the superstar of continental soccer in the Americas and an ambassador for his league. His influence on player recruitment and perception of the league will lead to better players, better competition, and more fans.  

With more eyes on the MLS, it will soon not be seen as a retirement league, but rather a competitive and exciting one. Carlos Akapo, a centre-back for the San Jose Earthquakes explained his view in an interview with Marca, a Spanish soccer newspaper. He said, “It is noticeable online, on television, and in the stands. After all, prices for tickets went from 100 dollars to thousands. It is a transfer that gives so much to the league for the players and viewers. In the US, people are coming together to watch soccer and the sport is gaining popularity.” Apart from the MLS, the US National Team will see an uptick in performance.  

Outlook on the 2026 World Cup will begin to take shape after the US hosts the Copa América this summer with a huge focus on stadiums and playing fields looking forward to 2026. Traditionally, the US has been seen as an underperforming and underachieving squad. Its highest place finish in a World Cup was 3rd place in the first edition of the competition, in 1930. Since then, the US has not reached the elimination rounds in 15 of the 22 editions of the tournament. However, Messi’s move has the potential to change this. With an increase in interest in youth soccer and a higher investment in the sport domestically, it is bound to reach new heights. The United States Youth Soccer Association has noticed a 5% growth in team creations since Messi’s arrival. Aaron Wyler ’27 is a clear example. “I have been a Messi fan for years, but I never pushed myself to play. However, since Messi’s transfer, I have begun playing the sport I love at the club level,” he said. 

With more players in the pool to choose from, the talent blossoms. The United States National Team has been on an upward trajectory and will now see even more improvement in coming years. Furthermore, soccer is projected to become the most watched sport in the US by 2026. It is hard to believe that just one man could have such a profound impact on the sporting culture of a nation. Due to his GOAT status and current high-level performances the hype shows no signs of slowing down. Like Messi, the MLS and US Soccer will not let up—and we look forward to watching them reach greater heights. 

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