By Jacob Sokol
The new era of Major League Soccer began when Lionel Messi decided to continue his legendary career in Miami, Florida. Stadiums began to sell out immediately. Resale tickets soared up to five figures in some cases. Adidas stock has been projected to rise as much as 30%. Celebrities have come out in numbers to get a glimpse of the player many consider to be the greatest of all time. These are all benefits to the growth of soccer in the United States — right?
Lionel Messi (Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art)
When it comes to league exposure it is undeniable that celebrity affiliations go a long way. Kim Kardashian, Lebron James, and Serena Williams have a combined 537 million Instagram followers and they were all in attendance for the debut of Lionel Messi. DRV PNK Stadium has become a new hotspot in America.
With popularity comes demand. It’s basic economics that the rise in demand equates to a rise in pricing. The average ticket price for an Inter Miami match pre-Messi would run you about $31. Post-Messi you’re looking at $252 on average, and that’s if you can find one at all.
That is just accounting for the rising prices inside Miami. When Messi comes to your city, your prices will rise as well. FC Dallas supporters just experienced this increase in a Leagues Cup game recently. Two supporters groups were unfortunately unable to attend due to those increases.
The Philadelphia Union also experienced this as they host Messi in The Leagues Cup. The average price for a ticket to that match-up was $556. It appears that passion could have a trade-off for popularity. Families on a budget who have often been priced out of America’s “pay to play” model for youth soccer will now possibly be in jeopardy of a price-gouging “pay to experience” model as well.
New fans bringing new problems
Besides the price increases, there has also been a massive influx of new fans attending games. While bringing in fans is the goal. They can come with a cost when they are interested solely in a player and are willing to instigate trouble towards long-time MLS fans.
A fight broke out between Messi fans and FC Dallas fans in a recent Leagues Cup match. Messi brings a massive following with him. Sometimes that following can cause negative outcomes and exposure, as this fight did a little over a week ago.
Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art
Beyond Major League Soccer’s new addition of Lionel Messi, two other exceptional players joined in the Argentine’s wake. Spanish National team players, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba followed Messi, expressing a strong desire to play with their former Barcelona teammate.
The games Messi has played so far have been some of the most viewed in the history of American soccer. Millions of eyes are now regularly watching Inter Miami. The team’s social media accounts have also flourished, becoming one of the most followed teams in all of American Sports.
In the past it was difficult for Major League Soccer’s broadcast partner, ESPN, to take them seriously at times. Now the league is being covered by major mainstream media channels and Apple TV is displaying Messi as one of their best products.
Profit equals growth and is the main objective for the league and business in general. Messi coming to the league is primarily a business move. Things will get bigger, better, and often more expensive. A lot of fans could end up basing the league’s value on what they can afford to experience personally.
Messi arriving in MLS is arguably the greatest opportunity the league has ever had. Growth is virtually guaranteed. The shape that growth takes is a different matter. When the hype clears and prices normalize it will be the everyday fan that is still relied on.