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Messi delivers at Inter Miami FC

Messi+delivers+at+Inter+Miami+FC
Delaney Bronk

A loud ovation engrossed DRV PNK Stadium, Florida as World–Cup and seven–time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi stepped onto the pitch as a substitute for Major League Soccer team Inter Miami in the match’s 60th minute. On July 21, 2023, Inter Miami was tied against the Liga Mx club Cruz Azul, and in the 94th minute, Messi scored on a free kick, certifying an Inter Miami win 2–1.

“Tonight’s a dream come true for everybody in this stadium … and everybody in this country to see Leo step into the MLS and perform,” said David Beckham, co–owner of Inter Miami FC, in an interview with the Daily Mail. “I don’t have many words for that.”

His performance drew in 1.75 million viewers, making it the league’s most watched match in nearly two decades, according to sportsmediawatch.com

“It’s really exciting,” said Jacquelyn Truong ‘24. “[Messi] brings in a lot more fans especially to MLS. Europe is a lot bigger with soccer, but with Messi coming, it brings more attention [to the US]. I’ve seen a lot of people wearing the Inter Miami Messi jersey now. I’ve never seen anyone wearing an Inter Miami jersey before.”

From the moment he signed with the MLS, the impact of this decision has been astronomical. Even prior to his official confirmation, Inter Miami ticket prices skyrocketed, and Messi’s jersey was sold out immediately at Adidas stores. On Messi’s Inter Miami debut, jersey sales had the highest sale in any first 24 hours of the jersey of a player who switched teams, surpassing US athletes such as Tom Brady and Lebron James.

“You can already see the difference in numbers,” said Leyton Gomes ‘24. “Miami has basically never sold out their stadium before, and now it’s [about] $500 just for the very back seats. The viewer numbers and MLS subscriptions basically doubled within a day or two of his signing.”

After months of speculation whether Messi would return to his debut club Barcelona FC, remain at Paris–Saint Germain or make a record–breaking billion dollar deal with Saudi Arabia to join the Saudi Leagues, fans worldwide were stunned by his decision to join the US’s soccer league MLS. Along with Messi, UEFA Champions League winners and Messi’s former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquests and Jordi Alba also shocked the sporting world by leaving Barcelona to come play with Messi in Miami.

“I’m very excited to start this next step in my career with Inter Miami and in the US,” said Messi, according to intermiamicf.com. “This is a fantastic opportunity, and together we will continue to build this beautiful project. The idea is to work together to achieve the objectives we set, and I’m very eager to start helping here in my new home.”

Shortly after Messi’s move, Neymar Junior, his former PSG and Barcelona teammate, announced his signing to club Al Hilal of the Saudi League, following soccer phenomenon Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to the Saudi club Al Nassr from Manchester United in January. Neymar’s decision has sparked controversy among soccer fans.

“I personally think Neymar going to Saudi is one of the worst decisions he could have made for his career and his legacy,” said Gomes. “The country has a lot of human rights issues in addition to the fact that everything there is backed by the government. I think the MLS is much better.”

Soccer had previously been dominated by the European soccer leagues. However, with the various other leagues in different countries that are rising in popularity and skill, there is an increased level of competition between them.

“I don’t think the MLS will be able to compete with the European leagues yet, but I definitely think that the MLS will get better,” said Gomes. “The Saudi Leagues are going to grow, but it’s going to take a while for them to become better than the MLS. They have the [star players], but the average player on the team is significantly worse [than those in the MLS].”

Aside from the multitude of fans from outside the US that Messi brought with him to the MLS, he has added to the general popularity of American soccer, increasing the fanbase of the sport in time for the Men’s World Cup to be hosted in North America in 2026. This comes as the US Men’s National Team made the 16th round in the 2022 World Cup for the first time since 2014.

“With Messi joining the MLS and with the Men’s National Team getting better, we’ll see a very big interest [with men’s soccer in the US], especially when the Men’s World Cup happens in the states,” said Gomes. “I think we will see a huge boom [in popularity] when that happens.”

Messi has won over 40 awards in the UEFA Champions league and led the Argentina Men’s National Team to world cup victory last year. Before signing Messi, Inter Miami was in last place in the 2022–‘23 MLS season, and now after joining, Inter Miami won their first League Cup trophy on Aug. 19, 2023.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have achieved all the goals I set for myself during my career, and now I have new goals with this club,” said Messi in a press conference at DRV PNK Stadium in August. “That’s why we’re here, you know? To try to help the club win titles and, personally, to keep winning titles.”

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About the Contributors
Kalia Bell, Sports Section Editor
Hi! My name is Kalia Bell and I am a staff writer for The Arrow. Besides writing, I love to play and watch sports. I love spending time with my friends and traveling with my family. I chose to be part of the staff because I’m able to express creativity in the newspaper and the stories I write. My favorite part of writing for the newspaper is putting together multiple sides and perspectives of a story and being able to share it with others. Working together with the staff to create a product we’re proud of has been a great experience that I’m happy to extend.
Sania Gali, Co-Web-Editor-In Chief,News Section Editor
My name is Sania Gali and I am the Co-Web-Editor in Chief and the News Section Editor for The Arrow. I love journalism because of the exciting stories we write at the Arrow as well as being able to inform the community on important issues. This is my second year on the staff and some of my hobbies are reading classical literature, watching the Office, and being outdoors with my dog Misty. 
Delaney Bronk, Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Delaney Bronk, and I am a staff writer for the Arrow.  This is my first year on staff. Specifically, I enjoy sports writing and creating graphics. I chose to be a part of the staff because I am interested in becoming a better writer and deepening my knowledge of global and community issues. Outside of writing and school, my interests include sports, reading, traveling, listening to music, and being with my family.
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