Lionel Messi has not yet signed with Inter Miami and won’t for a few more weeks, until his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires June 30.
He is in China with Argentina’s national team for a Thursday exhibition match against Australia, scheduled to travel to Jakarta for a Monday game against Indonesia and not expected to make his Inter Miami debut until July 21 at DRV PNK Stadium.
But already Messi has proven to be the transformative player Inter Miami owners and Major League Soccer executives expected he would be when he announced last Wednesday that he would join Inter Miami this summer, rejecting a $500 million offer from Saudi Arabia and a sentimental tug to return to FC Barcelona.
Since his announcement, Inter Miami, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference, had increased its Instagram following from just more than 1 million (largely due to David Beckham being a team co-owner) to 7.9 million, which is more than every NFL, MLB and NHL team.
Only two U.S. pro teams have more followers – the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors. Messi has 470 million followers on Instagram, the second most followed account in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo, and 575 million across all social media, more than double LeBron James’ 235 million followers, the most followed athlete in America. Chicharito, by contrast, is the most followed current MLS player, with 22 million followers.
Messi’s announcement was the most talked-about moment on Twitter across the world on June 7.
“Messi” was the No. 1 Twitter trend worldwide for five hours and featured in the top 10 for 10 hours. “Inter Miami” peaked at No. 2 worldwide and trended in the top 10 for four hours.
Within hours of the Messi news breaking, the Miami Herald soccer writer received radio interview requests from more than a dozen stations from as far as Ireland and New Zealand.
Across all social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter), Inter Miami is the second-most followed team in South Florida and has the most TikTok followers (3.3 million). The Miami Heat leads with 27 million followers across all platforms. Inter Miami has 13 million, Miami Dolphins 6.5 million, Miami Marlins 1.9 million and Florida Panthers 1.2 million.
Messi’s announcement also led to a huge spike in demand for Inter Miami tickets, and prices have skyrocketed on the resale market. The lowest-listed resale price for Miami’s Leagues Cup match against Cruz Azul on July 21, projected to be Messi’s first match, has increased 1,034 percent. Tickets on StubHub Monday ranged from $810 to $20,701. Single-game tickets for Inter Miami MLS home games after July 1 are not yet available, a strategic move club ownership made in anticipation of Messi’s potential signing.
There are plans to add 3,000 seats and close the corners at DRV PNK Stadium by August, increasing the capacity to 22,000. Tickets are expected to go on sale in the coming weeks. Average listed resale ticket prices for Inter Miami road matches is up more than 1,000 percent.
Charlotte FC sold 10,000 tickets for its game against Miami in a three-hour window after Messi’s announcement and Atlanta United, which leads MLS with an average attendance of 46,097, released full venue upper-level seats for 71,000 Mercedes-Benz Stadium.