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Inter Miami Signs Messi: The Turning Point of Soccer in the US?


In a ground-breaking announcement, Inter Miami has secured the signing of Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the greatest soccer player the world has ever witnessed. What does this mean for the sport in the US? Major League Soccer (MLS)? Inter Miami?

The US Sporting and Soccer Landscape

Despite the global popularity of soccer, and a dominant U.S. women’s national soccer team for nearly a quarter-century, the United States has historically shown less interest in the sport compared to other countries. Brand Finance’s research found that American Football and the NFL is by far the most popular sport across the nation, with all but five states choosing it as their favorite sport. Soccer has varying levels of interest, however, ranging from a mere 3% to 32% of people claiming it is their favorite sport.

The US is one of only a handful of countries where sports are the most popular interest, demonstrating the huge scope for growth of soccer across the country.

Inter Miami’s historically lower Brand Strength could get a boost

Brand Finance’s in-depth MLS research reveals that Inter Miami’s performance falls short when compared to its counterparts across various metrics. Notably, Sporting Kansas City emerges as the frontrunner, claiming the top position in numerous categories, including: my favorite player plays for the club, the team is well run & managed off the pitch, the team has a great stadium, sustainable and positive for the environment, good reputation, the best club in the world. Real Salt Lake and D.C. United also perform strongly in the research.

By contrast, Miami does not rank 1st or 2nd across any of the metrics asked. The area in which they score the highest comparatively is for the team is ambitious. Similar to when Pelé joined New York Cosmos igniting a fever of national excitement and record-breaking attendances, Messi could reshape the fortunes of the Florida-based team and grow both MLS’ and Inter Miami’s global following.

The power of Messi

According to a 2021 release by Brand Finance, Lionel Messi’s departure from FC Barcelona could have led to an 11% decrease in brand value, equivalent to a staggering €137m reduction from its 2021 valuation of €1,266m. However, the actual impact turned out to be less severe than anticipated. Despite that, Barcelona has experienced a significantly slower recovery in brand value compared to their arch-rivals Real Madrid, with the gap widening from €10m to a considerable €84m. Indeed, the power of a superstar cannot be underestimated.

The addition of Lionel Messi to Inter Miami presents a significant opportunity to enhance commercial revenue, with sponsorship and merchandise sales poised to benefit immensely from his presence. Moreover, Messi’s exceptional skills and iconic status are expected to elevate on-field performance, attracting a larger fan base and likely enticing even more of the Latin American audience, which is already primarily driven by national team players. This surge in popularity has the potential to boost broadcasting and matchday income, while also leading to improved match-day attendance across the country.

Considering Messi’s current age, his longevity becomes a crucial factor in assessing the overall impact on brand value. However, the prospect of him retiring at Inter Miami while maintaining a positive relationship could also open doors for mutually beneficial brand partnerships, extending beyond his playing days and benefiting both Messi and the club.

Hugo Hensley, Head of Sports Services at Brand Finance, commented:

’’The arrival of Lionel Messi to Inter Miami signifies a turning point in the sport’s landscape, unlocking immense potential for growth across the U.S. With his iconic status and exceptional skills, Messi’s addition presents a unique opportunity to elevate commercial revenue, attracting sponsors and driving merchandise sales. Moreover, his impact on the field is expected to broaden the fan base, boosting broadcasting and matchday income. With Messi joining the club, it aims to redefine its brand, forging valuable partnerships that extend beyond his playing days. The power of this superstar endorsement cannot be underestimated"

Celebrity endorsement and ownership model on the rise

We have seen big names try and build the sport from inside the nation. David Beckham - who is arguably more famous for his work off the pitch than on it – launched Inter Miami in 2020. More recently, Academy Award winner Natalie Portman co-founded Angel City FC, a National Women’s Soccer League expansion team.

Prominent Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds and his business partner and fellow actor, Rob McElhenney, ventured into soccer club ownership by acquiring Wales’s Wrexham AFC in November 2020. This Hollywood story has generated significant media attention and the release of the Hulu and Disney+ docuseries on the club – Welcome to Wrexham – has garnered support and interest like never before. With Apple TV announcing a similar style documentary on Inter Miami, the club can leverage the star power of the player to captivate audiences and fuel the rapid growth of the sport across the country.

Read the full Brand Finance Football 50 2023 report here


Brand Finance has estimated the potential impact of Lionel Messi’s departure on FC Barcelona’s brand value by examining the player’s role in driving revenue across key streams, such as commercial and matchday. The proportion of Messi’s value on the transfer market to the total value of the club’s players was used as a proxy for the proportion of the club’s revenues which can be attributed to Messi’s presence in the club.

About Brand Finance          

Brand Finance is the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy. Bridging the gap between marketing and finance, Brand Finance evaluates the strength of brands and quantifies their financial value to help organisations of all kinds make strategic decisions.

Headquartered in London, Brand Finance has offices in over 20 countries, offering services on all continents. Every year, Brand Finance conducts more than 5,000 brand valuations, supported by original market research, and publishes over 100 reports which rank brands across all sectors and countries.

Brand Finance is a regulated accountancy firm, leading the standardisation of the brand valuation industry. Brand Finance was the first to be certified by independent auditors as compliant with both ISO 10668 and ISO 20671, and has received the official endorsement of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) in the United States.


Brand Finance has produced this study with an independent and unbiased analysis. The values derived and opinions presented in this study are based on publicly available information and certain assumptions that Brand Finance used where such data was deficient or unclear. Brand Finance accepts no responsibility and will not be liable in the event that the publicly available information relied upon is subsequently found to be inaccurate. The opinions and financial analysis expressed in the study are not to be construed as providing investment or business advice. Brand Finance does not intend the study to be relied upon for any reason and excludes all liability to any body, government, or organisation.

The data presented in this study form part of Brand Finance’s proprietary database, are provided for the benefit of the media, and are not to be used in part or in full for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.

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