The landscape of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States will never be the same since Lionel Messi’s triumphant arrival at Inter Miami. The Argentine icon, who had already left an indelible mark on the world’s biggest football stages, seems to be redefining the game on American soil, as indicated by the surprising streaming audience numbers revealed by MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
In a revelation that left even the most optimistic astounded, Garber admitted during Soccerex Miami that Messi’s addition to the league resulted in an explosion of streaming viewership, reaching the remarkable milestone of over one million viewers in the key matches broadcasted via Apple TV through the MLS Season Pass. A turnaround that defies expectations and sets a new standard for soccer in the United States.
Comparing these numbers with the average NHL viewership in the U.S., it is clear that Messi is not just a player but a transformative force that has elevated MLS to a global level. With less than 500,000 viewers on average for live NHL games on television, MLS numbers now transcend the borders of North America, announcing to the world that American soccer is on the verge of becoming a global phenomenon.
Messi’s presence at Inter Miami is not merely symbolic; it is catalytic. His arrival on the eve of a new intra-league tournament culminated in winning the Copa de Ligas championship, simultaneously showcasing the Golden Boot trophy. While the exact numbers remain a mystery, Garber’s words reveal an unprecedented impact and a transformation in the global perception of MLS.
As we gear up for the 2023 MLS playoffs, it’s clear that Messi’s legacy extends beyond the pitch. The new postseason format, featuring single-elimination knockout games, promises even more excitement. The Western Conference will witness matchups like Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders vs. LAFC, while the Eastern Conference will see clashes between FC Cincinnati and Philadelphia Union, and Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew.
Under Messi’s influence, MLS is no longer a regional league; it has become a global powerhouse. The challenge now is to sustain and expand this momentum, capitalizing not only on on-field results but Messi’s unique ability to transcend borders and attract a global audience. We are witnessing a Messi revolution that is not just for the United States but for the soccer world as a whole.