© 2023
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The rising price of soccer tickets

By now, you’re likely well aware that you will not have the opportunity to see Inter Miami play soccer this season unless you either already bought tickets a long time ago or you are comfortable spending Taylor Swift concert like money on an MLS game. That’s because last week, Lionel Messi, the brightest soccer star in the universe fresh off leading Argentina to a World Cup Title, will join Miami for the remainder of this season. That has pushed ticket prices that rivaled a ticket to the movies to hundreds of dollars. For example, the cheapest seats to see Miami play the NY Red Bulls in August is just shy of $300. You can next week’s game against Charlotte for 20.

Messi chose Miami and MLS over other far more lucrative options. Most notably, he turned down a reported $500 million offer to play in Saudi Arabia, also known as home of the PGA Tour. He also turned down a return to Barcelona, for which he is best known. And he’s leaving a $45 million dollar a year playing contract with Paris Saint-Germain. That said, Argentina need not cry for Messi, who’s creatively constructed contract with Miami will pay him around $125 million over 2 ½ years. That includes incentives from Apple, Adidas, and team equity when he’s done playing – which currently at 35, could come at the end of this contract. This deal also brings new exposure to the American market and a chance to work with partial team owner David Beckham, something of a road map from life on the field to one beyond it. As much as Messi’s deal is about playing soccer, it’s quite clear that its orientation goes far beyond the pitch.

This isn’t the first high profile international soccer player to come to the US late in their career, even if it is the most significant, if for no other reason than no player is bigger than Messi. There was Beckham, Valderrama, Zlatan, and several more. Of course, it started with Pele in the 70’s with the Cosmos of the defunct NASL. They all moved the needle, even if through their dominance they also reinforced the reality that the MLS isn’t the Premier League. That’s part of the challenge of global stars playing over here. They remind us what we’re not, or at least not yet.

There is talk that Messi’s tenure in MLS may be different, and perhaps more transformative than his previous counterparts. Unlike some of the others, Messi still has peak game left in him, or at least that’s the belief. So this wouldn’t be some kind of washed up American residency, but actually world class soccer talent. It’s also been suggested that Messi might present a model that’s more appealing to others considering coming stateside, making this less of a one-off and potentially elevating the game. More of a rising tide lifting all ships. And with the World Cup coming to America in 2026, maybe Messi cultivates a fan base large enough to cull NFL like dollars towards the sport. It’s hard to say whether any of that is true, but it is clear that there is new American money coming into the sport, especially on the secondary ticket market.

It would be silly to assume that one person could transform the trajectory of a league, much less an entire sport. If that were the case, the old USFL would have never gone away. Even the greatest of change makers – say Michael Jordan or Michael Phelps – were part of larger movements. And their impact can be transitory, which is why people are slightly less interested in swimming right now. It seems what we really liked was American nationalism, not the 400 IM. So Messi could simply be yet another ethereal light in the history of American soccer, one who’s trajectory is largely upward but measured. It could also be that forces far beyond Messi or MLS – like how we consume media content, or which Middle Eastern oil country wants to burn money – could change everything overnight. Remember, not that long ago, only diehard soccer fans knew much of anything about the Premier League. Now in my house, my kids are regularly watching games from the second division. In other words, American soccer may very well explode, but Messi may simply be a byproduct, not the cause.

The only thing we do know right now is that Messi is playing in the MLS very soon. And that you are very unlikely to see it in person.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Related Content
  • Politics may make strange bedfellows, but golf is still the world’s boardroom. Both of those truisms and many others converged yesterday in one of the most surprising mergers in sports history. Expected by seemingly no one, the PGA Golf Tour announced a merger with hated upstart rival LIV Golf, the sport’s new tour funded by the Saudi government that’s turned golfers against each other as they choose sides and loyalties that extend far beyond the fairway. Also included in the European Tour, consolidating golf’s most well-known professional tours into one previously unimaginable supergroup.
  • The word history gets thrown around a lot in the context of sports. Sometimes it’s subjective, like calling someone the best player in history. Other times, it’s related to time or distance. Like someone who breaks a track or swimming world record. And yet other times, it’s about a statistical anomaly, something that has never happened before because it so mathematically implausible. Like a win streak or home run streak or pattern that just shouldn’t be.
  • As a baseline, you should know that I am not a gambler. Perhaps you could say I’m risk averse, but perhaps more specifically, I don’t like losing money. And perhaps more importantly, I don’t get any rush from winning money either. So putting money on some team to win or cover isn’t all that appealing to me, because it feels like all risk and very limited reward.