Thursday December 7, 2023

Fire Owner Mansueto Bets On Messi To Elevate His Own Team

  • MLS team owner plans series of promotions, game enhancements
  • Fire have struggled for years both on and off the field
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
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Lionel Messi has created hordes of new Inter Miami fans. Now, Chicago Fire owner Joe Mansueto is looking to use the Argentinian legend to build broader support for his team, too.

Inter Miami is set to face Chicago on Oct. 4 at Soldier Field, and the Fire are projecting a sellout crowd of about 63,000. That figure is more than four times the team’s home average attendance of 15,236 — next-to-last in the league — and potentially a league ticket gross record for a regular-season match. Normally, the Fire play at sharply reduced capacity at Soldier Field. 

Not only is the extra Messi-related demand providing a short-term revenue bump for the team, as has been the case for other Inter Miami opponents, but they also see a long-term fan-development opportunity.

“One of the things that we’re really focused on is using the match against Inter Miami to convert casual fans into more consistent attendees,” Dave Baldwin, Fire president of business operations, told Bloomberg. “We’re hoping that over time people that came out to watch Messi will slowly convert to be Fire fans.”

The Fire also plan a series of promotions and in-game enhancements, including free tickets to the Inter Miami game with a full-season 2024 commitment. 

The club has faced an uphill climb building fan support with five straight non-playoff seasons, and potentially a sixth this year.

U.S. Open Cup Questions

Inter Miami will play for their second trophy of the season on Wednesday, facing the Houston Dynamo in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final. But Messi’s status remains unclear due to injury: He has missed three matches in the last two weeks, and was subbed out of a fourth. 

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