Lionel Messi is the signing of the MLS (Major League Soccer) that can mark a before and after in the history of the soccer league in the United States. It is one of the phrases that have been heard the most in recent days not only in Miami, Florida, but also in many sports circles.
“I believe that MLS as a league has great potential. It is very professional, the stadiums they have dedicated to soccer, the coaches they are bringing in from abroad. In other words, everything is lining up, and now bringing in a superstar like they did at the beginning with (David) Beckham, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) or Chicharito Hernández is a strategy from which football is going to benefit a lot, as well as the fans”, he explained to the voice of america Heidi Pellerano, commercial manager of the Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean Soccer (Concacaf).
A signing with great impact worldwide
The arrival of the Argentine star, who has seven Ballon d’Ors and a World Cup to his credit, has attracted the attention of half the world. His presentation last Sunday attracted millions of viewers and some point out that the final of the last Superbowl was surpassed in number of views.
“The impact is going to be brutal, mainly because it comes seven months and four days after winning the World Cup in Qatar. And obviously, Messi still has a rope for a while”, commented Andrés Cantor, one of the most recognized sports journalists for the Hispanic community both in the United States and in Latin America who has spent more than 36 years narrating soccer matches.
“The best promotion of the 2026 World Cup”
These days the Women’s World Cup is taking place (available in Spanish through Telemundo in the United States). In 2026, the United States will host the same men’s competition along with Mexico and Canada.
According to Pellerano, from Concacaf, Messi has become a kind of revulsion to promote this sport in the country and among the population that does not have a direct relationship with soccer. Therefore, he believes that the Argentine star is the best “ambassador” that football could have in order to promote this competition during his time at Inter Miami, whose contract ends at the end of the 2025 season.
“If you talk to many people in the United States, you realize that their first memory of soccer is the 1994 World Cup. There is no doubt that the arrival of Messi will contribute to his promotion,” he adds.
The question is whether the MLS will end up becoming a league as competitive as the Premier League (England) or La Liga (Spain). “The reality is that the world does not follow the MLS,” Cantor settles in conversation with the VOA. But he clarifies that “for now there is a business situation that will allow the whole world to know where Messi’s matches are, which is a single streaming platform, so whoever wants to watch it in Uzbekistan will have to subscribe to AppleTV”, which is the company that has the rights to broadcast the matches and of which Messi will take a part of them, according to the agreement he reached with Inter Miami.
A new era for soccer in the US
The signing of the ‘Flea’, which will earn 50 million dollars a year, could be the beginning of a new era for this sport in the United States, which for a long time has been seen as the competition chosen by athletes at the end of their careers and not as an option to be in a top-level league.
“Ten years ago, when I started the journey to develop a new team in Miami, I said that I dreamed of bringing the best players in the world to this incredible city. Players with the same ambition that I had when I arrived at the LA Galaxy to help grow soccer in the United States and build a legacy for the next generation in this sport that we love so much,” said the former British player and co-owner of the South Florida club after the signing of Leo Messi.
However, the United States league has always been seen as the competition that athletes went to at the end of their sports careers. Messi, 36 years old, has done the same. Like Sergio Busquets (35 years old) or Jordi Alba (34 years old), who have also recently signed with the rosinegro club.
“There is going to be a greater interest from the arrival of these players, I have no doubt about it. And that Messi is going to make his team better and surely better for MLS, too. From there to the fact that the MLS, overnight, competes against the Premier, against the Spanish League, Seria A, the Bundesliga, I think it is still missing. That is the reality”, predicts the sports journalist.
“Messi comes to the United States to something else”
Along these lines, he recalls that Leo Messi “explained it very well” when he spoke to two Catalan newspapers after learning of his decision not to accept the offer of Fútbol Club Barcelona and to opt for the team led by the Argentine coach Tata Martino.
“He comes looking for something else at this stage in his life. He whitewashed that, let’s say, that he was tired of the pressure of playing at the highest level for the last 18 years and staying number one. That he comes to look for a little more peace, ”he says, although he clarifies that“ those of us who know Messi know that he has a competitive gene like no other and he is not going to give up any ball ”.
“He will surely play with that spirit, with that sacred fire that only very few have, despite knowing that he has already won everything. But he liked that challenge and surely he will be up to it ”, he added.
The debut is expected this Friday against Cruz Azul
Leo Messi is expected to make his debut this Friday in the first qualifying match against the Mexican team of Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup championship, although it has not yet been confirmed by sources from the technical team.
Beckham pointed out that the Argentine star “is going to play a part of Friday’s game”, although he leaves the decision to Tata Martino, also an Argentine, who from now on will be the new coach of Inter Miami. “It will depend on the coach, we know that he was out for a while and he needs time,” he stressed.