August 9, 2023
Is soccer taking over football? Messi’s success brings Inter Miami CF 13 million Instagram followers
Following in David Beckham’s footsteps, Lionel Messi is further influencing US soccer culture; Inter Miami CF has reached over 13 million followers, over 12 million greater since his signing on July 15.
After just four games, Messi is fourth among all-time Inter Miami scorers with him scoring two goals on Sunday, August 6 in a penalty shootout win against FC Dallas.
Messi’s success sheds even more light on Major League Soccer (MLS) as social media shows that growth in US soccer could mean an audience shift from European football.
Messi has brought his vast social media following; the team now has 13.3 million Instagram followers, which is greater than 15 out of the 20 Premier League teams.
In the past, MLS in the US has not been taken seriously in the football world. However, with the help of Messi bringing the media and football stars’ attention, change is seemingly on the horizon.
James Richings, a news and sports reporter for the Buck Free Press Newspaper, shared his thoughts with Harbinger’s Magazine about Messi’s impact.
“The future looks bright because currently, I think Messi is the best player in the world. His World Cup win with Argentina really did staple that. Massive names have gone to the MLS to try and boost it, and Messi is by far the biggest,” he said.
Richings also stated that although these other big names in the MLS benefited them, the evolution of football fans increased Messi’s effect. “When I started watching, people used to support a team, but now you have people who support players, and Messi has got fans all over the world.”
When asked about what may be in store for Inter Miami CF fans after Messi’s retirement, Richings said: “Whenever that may be, I do think the hype will die down, but I do believe that he is going to bring a new load of supporters that will remain supporting Inter Miami. When he goes, they will more than likely stay.”
Richings however does not believe that the MLS will reach the European League’s level of play until they incorporate a similar league structure with promotion and relegation.
In all the top US sports leagues, like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, it is beneficial to ‘tank’ or lose purposefully, in order to get a higher draft pick for the following year. Richings believes that this lessens competitiveness, as “there is no incentive if there is no consequence.”
However, “if the MLS hierarchy changed the way they do promotion or relegation, then yes, it could potentially become a force.”
Messi is one of the world’s most popular influencers: he has the second-highest personal Instagram following with 482 million followers and has the most-liked Instagram post with over 75 million likes.
Because of the spotlight always shining on Messi through social media, his recent signing with Inter Miami has brought success to the MLS through ticketing. The prices have risen 1000%, and all home and away games are being sold out for the rest of the season, and his jersey has received the best ever sales in the first 24 hours after a player team switch.
Further showing his impact, almost half the world’s eyes, 3.5 billion people, witnessed his welcoming ceremony in Miami.
In addition to Messi’s fame attracting the attention of the entire football world, many celebrities have gone to Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium to watch him play, attracting many different types of audiences to Major League Soccer.
From Kim Kardashian to LeBron James, a number of famous people have been in attendance to watch Messi and help promote Inter Miami. With the combination of fame from the music industry, sports stars, and social media influencers, the MLS may be in store for a large variety of new coming viewers.
The MLS’s growth will likely not stop when Messi retires, as in addition to the veteran European stars, other young talent from around the globe is coming.
Past teammates Sergio Busquets and Spain captain Jordi Alba have joined Inter Miami with Messi. However, David Beckham, one of “the best [football] players ever” and an Inter Miami co-owner, said in 2020 that the MLS “should never be a league where players from Europe come to retire.”
Following this idea, Inter Miami have signed Paraguayan midfielder Diego Gomez (20), Argentinian center back Tomis Avilez (19), and Argentinian attacker Facundo Farías (20) to U22 initiative deals.