Lionel Messi played his first away match in an Inter Miami kit on August 6 at FC Dallas, which generated 10 times the normal gameday revenue at Toyota Stadium. The legendary star scored two goals in the Leagues Cup game, including a stunning free kick in the 85th minute to tie the contest, which the Herons eventually won on penalty kicks.
In the three weeks after, FC Dallas says it sold more 2024 season tickets than in any three-week period in club history.
The club has sold as many season ticket packages at this point in the year as it did by December of 2022 — and that 60% of those sales alone occurred since August 6. By this December, FC Dallas expects to have sold the most season tickets in one year in club history.
“Season ticket holders, they want that value. Not necessarily a dollar value, but that appreciation for being a part of something and that pride in owning a season ticket,” FC Dallas COO and CFO Jimmy Smith tells Front Office Sports. “I think this game, more so than any other game, really solidified that.”
Dallas was not the only MLS club to see a season ticket bump from Messi Mania.
The Philadelphia Union, who faced Inter Miami at Subaru Park on August 15, says it has sold “nearly 1,000 2024 season tickets in the days leading up to and following the match.” The Leagues Cup contest also set club records for average ticket price, gameday revenue, and concession revenue.
New York Red Bulls hosted Messi’s first MLS game on August 26 to the largest crowd ever at Red Bull Arena (26,276).
The club opened its 2024 season ticket sales campaign on August 7 — and by August 11, it had sold more season tickets in the five-day period than any since it started tracking sales in 2013. It is also already at 95% of all the new season ticket sales it closed for the 2023 season.
Messi has clearly played a huge role in this MLS fandom boom, but league executives and experts believe he was simply the spark that set the fire ablaze.
“I don’t think it’s him coming in and everything’s changed,” says Smith. “I think we have a great foundation. We have this great product that fans want to be a part of and now we’re just getting that exposure, so more people understand and get to sample that product that we have.”
Messi Mania no doubt has its grip on MLS — but for the league to thrive following his time there, it will have to rely on its fans building a true connection with their own teams.
“When you think about customer acquisition from a business perspective, the thing you want to do most is get people to have those first experiences, to attend those first games,” says Greenfly CEO Daniel Kirschner, whose company does content collection for MLS teams. “Then you can convince a large percentage of them to stick around.”