When considering just how impactful Lionel Messi could be for Major League Soccer, it’s worth taking a glance at Instagram. Inter Miami CF had around 1 million followers on the platform before rumors of the Argentine football great joining the team began to circulate. Now the move is official, and the club has reached 5.7 million followers.
A lot of that growth came quickly, with the account gaining 1.3 million followers in the four hours after the announcement was made. But the count keeps growing, and there’s no telling when it will plateau.
As it stands now, Inter Miami is more popular on Instagram than any NFL, MLB, NHL or other MLS team. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers both have around 3 million followers on the platform.
From a quick glance, it looks like the New England Patriots are the most popular NFL team on Instagram, with 4.9 million followers. The Dallas Cowboys are a close runner-up, with 4.5 million.
Creating a boom of about 1 million more followers than “America’s team” is the Messi Effect on full display.
While gridiron football is widely referred to as America’s favorite sport, NBA teams’ social numbers are monstrous in comparison. The Los Angeles Lakers have 22.8 million followers on Instagram. The Boston Celtics have 7.5 million. The NBA also has substantial appeal in places such as China and Africa, but soccer has a completely different global grasp.
The Premier League represents the highest level of the English football system. One of its most popular clubs, Manchester United, has a whopping 61.9 million followers. No team from any American league has that kind of social media following.
That said, the story of sports popularity is often better told through attendance. The Premier League had an average attendance of 41,430 across 380 games in the 2021-22 season. MLS averaged 20,526 fans across 489 games.
Multiple globally recognized football stars have joined MLS, and there’s always hope that they can help bridge the gap between the American league and the Premier League. David Beckham’s addition to the LA Galaxy in 2007 was a game changer, and Messi’s move has the same potential. Ticket prices and demand to see the star in Miami have already spiked.
The Lionel Messi Effect isn’t limited to ticket prices. (AP Foto/Michel Euler)
It’s unclear when Messi will make his debut for Inter Miami CF. He’ll officially sign with the club on or after July 5. But he could rest and acclimate until July or even August.
D.C. United hosts Miami on July 8 and sold upward of 3,000 tickets Wednesday alone, according to a club source. By Thursday morning, the cheapest verified ticket available via the club or Ticketmaster had jumped to $300.
While Messi is unlikely to play then, the get-in price for Inter Miami vs. LAFC on Sept. 3 is around $700.