Messi Joins Inter Miami: A Game-Changing Move for MLS and American Soccer
Discover how Lionel Messi’s surprising decision to join Inter Miami in Major League Soccer (MLS) is set to revolutionize American soccer, boost the league’s global appeal, and transform Miami into a soccer powerhouse. Explore the challenges faced by Inter Miami, the negotiations that brought Messi to Miami, and the potential impact of this superstar signing on the team and the league as a whole.
Lionel Messi has achieved yet another remarkable milestone: He is now set to join Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.
After considerable speculation spanning several months, Messi has finally unveiled his choice to join the Miami franchise, which has been under the leadership of soccer legend David Beckham since its establishment but has yet to make a significant impact on the field.
This situation is likely to change in the near future. Jorge Mas, one of the owners of Inter Miami, posted a tweet featuring a photo of a Messi jersey shrouded in darkness shortly before the Argentine maestro disclosed his decision in interviews with prominent Spanish news outlets Mundo Deportivo and Sport.
Previously, it was widely anticipated that Messi would opt to play for Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, following in the footsteps of his long-standing rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined a club backed by the state’s sovereign wealth fund. Another potential option was returning to Barcelona, a renowned franchise where he had spent the majority of his illustrious career.
However, he ultimately made a surprising decision that caught many off guard. Messi is set to join Major League Soccer (MLS). In his interviews on Wednesday, he mentioned that there are still some final details to be ironed out, but he has made the decision to “continue my path” in Miami.
“After winning the World Cup and being unable to return to Barcelona, it was my turn to experience football in a different way by joining the United States league,” Messi stated.
Contrary to expectations, money and past memories were not the deciding factors. Instead, Messi chose Miami as his next destination. His upcoming matches are likely to be exhibition games with Argentina against Australia on June 15 in Beijing and against Indonesia in Jakarta four days later. Following these fixtures, his debut for Inter Miami is expected to take place sometime in July.
Having spent two years with Paris Saint-Germain, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner (an annual award presented to the best player in the world) makes this move at the age of 35, with nothing left to prove in the game. In December, Messi fulfilled the only significant unchecked accomplishment on his resume by leading Argentina to a World Cup title.
With over 800 career goals for club and country, Messi stands as one of the greatest scorers in the history of the sport. Throughout his illustrious 17-year international career representing Argentina, he has scored 102 goals against 38 different national teams, including 16 goals on U.S. soil. Notably, he netted twice in last year’s World Cup final against France, which ended in a 3-3 draw, with Argentina ultimately prevailing in penalty kicks.
Messi has reached the pinnacle of the game, achieving remarkable success throughout his career.
Now, he makes his debut in MLS with a struggling team currently occupying the last place in the Eastern Conference. Just a few days ago, the coach Phil Neville, who was hand-picked by Beckham two years ago, was fired.
Messi’s decision to join the U.S. league could be the most significant boost ever for American soccer at the professional level. While notable figures like Pele, Thierry Henry, and Beckham himself have come to the U.S. towards the end of their careers, landing a player of Messi’s caliber, still performing near the pinnacle of his game and only a few months removed from winning the World Cup, is truly monumental.
Bringing Messi to Miami’s pitch required extensive negotiations involving MLS, the Inter Miami ownership, Adidas, and even Apple, which got involved with a creative pitch. Apple, a broadcast partner of MLS, announced on Tuesday that it will produce a four-part documentary series featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Lionel Messi. The series, yet to be titled, will allow Messi to tell the definitive story of his incredible career with the Argentina national football team, offering an intimate and unprecedented look into his pursuit of a legacy-defining World Cup victory.
And now, a new chapter of Messi’s story unfolds in Miami.
Inter Miami experienced a six-year journey from inception to playing its first match, and its initial four seasons have been far from stellar. Currently sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and having just dismissed their coach, the team has made the playoffs in two out of its first three seasons. However, they have yet to finish a season with a winning record or a positive goal differential.
Despite the team’s struggles, there have been indications for months that Miami remained a strong contender in the race to sign Messi. Public disclosure of Messi’s meeting with Inter Miami co-owner Beckham earlier this spring hinted at ongoing discussions. Additionally, Messi and his family own luxury properties in South Florida, adding to the speculation that something significant was on the horizon. As if foreshadowing a major announcement, the MLS club informed fans that the only way to secure tickets for the second half of the season was to purchase a season-ticket package.
He remains an immense attraction worldwide, and Miami is no exception. Just two days after Argentina’s World Cup triumph, Kyle Lowry, a guard for the Miami Heat, sat on the team’s bench during a game, unable to play due to injury. He sported a Messi jersey that evening.
For now, Inter Miami plays its home matches in a temporary stadium located in Fort Lauderdale, approximately 45 minutes north of the desired permanent complex site in Miami.
Despite the area’s significant Latin influence and the use of the term “futbol” rather than “soccer” by many locals, Inter Miami has struggled to garner the same level of attention as the region’s primary professional teams—the Miami Heat in basketball, the Miami Marlins in baseball, the Miami Dolphins in football, and the Florida Panthers in hockey.
However, Messi’s arrival has the potential to change that in an instant. In a flash, he becomes the biggest star in MLS, elevating every move made by the team to newsworthy status.
His decision marks the end of a tumultuous saga. Barcelona played a pivotal role in making Messi a superstar, but financial issues within the club resulted in his departure two years ago, and those issues persist to this day.
“I heard that they’d have to sell players or lower players’ salaries, and the truth is, I didn’t want to go through that,” Messi explained on Wednesday.
Financial concerns were not a factor in the speculation surrounding a potential move to Saudi Arabia, where some believed he would end up. The rumors gained traction when Messi made an unauthorized trip to the kingdom. PSG suspended him temporarily, and a portion of the fanbase turned against him, expressing their discontent through jeers toward the end of his season with the French club.
It was evident to everyone that Messi would not return to PSG. However, few could have anticipated his decision to join Miami—a move by a superstar that might be even more astonishing than LeBron James’ arrival to join the Heat 13 years ago.