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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Soccer’s Surge, Messi Propel MLS to Record Attendance and Revenue

  • MLS is about to conclude its regular season after breaking several records off the field.
  • The arrival of Lionel Messi has helped propel the league to new heights.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

MLS is entering its final matchday of the regular season on Saturday with five of its 18 postseason berths still up for grabs — but the league has already seen groundbreaking numbers off the field in 2023.

Across the league, attendance has hit the 10.4 million mark — and could reach nearly 11 million — surpassing last season’s record figure of 10 million. Additionally, a league-record seven clubs should break their average attendance records. Four clubs sold out every regular-season match this year.

A large portion of the growth can undoubtedly be attributed to the arrival of Lionel Messi, who joined Inter Miami in June and has since propelled the league’s worst club to its first ever Leagues Cup title and back in the playoff hunt before injuries slowed down their run. 

During the attendance spike, Messi helped drive season ticket sales for not just Inter Miami, but other clubs, too. Apple’s MLS Season Pass saw a huge spike in subscribers after Messi’s arrival, unsurprisingly. Next month, Inter Miami will put MLS on a global stage with a two-match tour of China.

But even before the Argentinian legend came to the U.S., MLS season tickets were up 9% — a record figure for the league, according to Forbes. And match attendance was up 5%. The league’s online store set revenue records in late February and early March — and then Messi became the most-sold jersey of the season within 45 minutes of his jersey launch and the most-sold jersey in the history of MLSstore.com within three days of the launch.

But with the MLS Cup Playoffs beginning next week, the league will look to keep the momentum growing without its biggest star.

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