Lionel Messi’s MLS debut comes 16 years to the day that David Beckham played his first game for the LA Galaxy on July 21, 2007.
The English superstar’s move to the U.S. — via a uniquely structured, precedent-setting deal — marked the league’s first true blockbuster signing, one that paved the way for others. Now, Beckham has brought arguably the greatest player of all time to American soccer.
While playing for Real Madrid, Beckham played against Messi’s Barcelona squad just twice before leaving for MLS. Now, the two soccer icons are set to be long-term business partners in South Florida, as Messi’s contract reportedly has an option for equity in Inter Miami.
Part of MLS’ push to lure Beckham was allowing him to purchase an expansion franchise at any point for $25 million. When Inter Miami was officially granted a place in MLS in 2018, the most recent expansion fee was $150 million for Nashville, while Charlotte was awarded a team for $325 million the very next year.
As Beckham struggled to get local support for a new stadium, many looked down upon the cost-friendly deal, which appeared to be costing MLS money. Now, any trepidation is certainly gone.
The fact remains that there’s no guarantee that Messi would have been drawn to MLS without the option of playing in Miami or playing for Beckham.
It’s now clear that what started as a wild fever dream to have a European star in America began a decade-and-a-half-long process to secure MLS’ future. Whether by design or luck, MLS bringing Beckham to L.A. also brought Messi to Miami.