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How Lionel Messi Broke the US Soccer Curse

The ongoing and lengthy efforts to make soccer a success in the United States have been given a huge boost in the shape of a veteran Argentine star Lionel Messi.

Ankit Kanaujia
Last updated: 16.11.2023
How Lionel Messi Broke the US Soccer Curse

The ongoing and lengthy efforts to make soccer a success in the United States have been given a huge boost in the shape of a veteran Argentine star who is loved globally and has won every significant accolade possible, who has opted to make a groundbreaking move to join the MLS.


The former Barcelona star could have chosen any location on earth to continue his glittering career, and no doubt offers from locations such as Saudi Arabia would have led to an even larger financial reward, but instead, he elected to move to a relatively new Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami, the team fronted by a certain personality by the name of David Beckham.


Ongoing Challenge


Efforts to make soccer challenge the traditionally big four American sports leagues, NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, have been ongoing for decades, but this latest deal could well help to finally level the playing field.


Soccer is huge around the world, and the popularity of the sport, in global terms, dwarves the size of the sports already mentioned, so in many ways, the relative lack of success in the United States has always been a little puzzling. 


The move to bring Messi to the United States is seemingly part of a longer-term plan, with the FIFA 2026 World Cup, hosted by the US, Canada, and Mexico, seen as a key part of the push to make soccer an American phenomenon.

Massive Contract


Obviously, Messi’s move is not about helping grow the sport; the legendary star has put pen to paper on a deal that will earn him $60 million a year over the course of a two-and-a-half-year deal that comes to a close in December 2025.


By all accounts, Messi was considering a return to Barcelona following his stint in the French capital with Paris Saint-Germain, but the La Liga side couldn’t afford to make such a deal due to strict financial fair play rules that they must abide by.


There were offers from Saudi Arabia, where an offer of an astonishing $1.6 billion was reportedly offered, where he would have once again locked horns with fellow superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, but a move to Miami proved more than enticing enough.




The fact that Inter Miami is managed by Gerardo Martino will have been another big factor, with Messi having played under his fellow Argentine at both Barcelona and for the national team.


A cursory glance at what Messi has achieved in his career thus far is fairly astounding. The 36-year-old moved to Barcelona at the age of 13, and he broke into the first team set-up as a teenager in 2004.


Over the course of his 17 years at the Camp Nou, he racked up 778 appearances and 672 goals. That means he has played more and scored more than any player previously has for the Catalan giants.


He won ten domestic La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey winners’ medals, and four UEFA Champions League titles. He has been named the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner on a record seven occasions, his first coming in 2009 and his latest being in 2021.


He completed a surprise move to PSG in 2021, and in two seasons with the cash-rich Parc des Princes side, he made 75 appearances and scored 32 goals, winning the French Ligue 1 championship twice.


For the Argentine national team, he has similarly excelled. No international player has played more often or scored more goals for the nation, and his tally of 104 goals in 176 games is frankly frightening.


Last year, he played a key role in helping Argentina to clinch the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and he did so in style. He scored twice in the final against France, which finished 3-3, and then put away his spot-kick as they beat Les Bleus on penalties.


Instant Success


Messi has already proven he is more than capable, even in his relatively late years, of making an impact in the United States. He’s scored 11 goals in 11 games thus far, and his form will give Inter Miami a glimmer of hope of getting to the play-offs, which is in itself a miracle given how poorly they played prior to his arrival.


The financial pull of Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami will seemingly more than match his salary, and if, on the playing side, he can lead the team to success on the pitch, then the experiment will have proven advantageous for all parties, from the country’s overall push to boost the popularity of soccer in the US to Messi’s club’s push for a first MLS title, which must surely only be a year or two away.


It also helps that Messi has helped to bring other stars to the DRV PNK Stadium, with the likes of Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets having joined from Barcelona.

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