Lionel Messi says Major League Soccer has “every chance” of getting as popular as the European leagues

The presence of Lionel Messi has really changed soccer in the United States.  (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

The presence of Lionel Messi has really changed soccer in the United States. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

MLS is one of the smallest soccer leagues in the world, but its new star believes it can become one of the biggest.

Lionel Messi, Inter Miami striker, From the MLS Storm after He left French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain said in June that it believed MLS could become as popular as other European leagues such as the English Premier League, La Liga and Ligue 1.

“I think she has every chance to do that,” Messi said for Luis Miguel Echegaray from ESPN Friday. “This growth depends a lot on the league. It’s a perfect moment for growth. There are important competitions coming up that will take place in this country [like the 2024 Copa America and the 2026 FIFA World Cup]. “

It is true that American interest in soccer is growing. Look no further than the United States women’s national team, which won back-to-back World Cups in 2015 and 2019. Before a shocking exit in the round of 16 in 2023. The team match with the Netherlands in the group stage as well It drew 6.429 million viewers, which was a record for Fox.

TV viewership and personal viewership among local clubs is also gaining momentum. Matches on ESPN and ABC are up 16% from 2021 to 2022, and although information on broadcast numbers on Apple TV+ is not publicly available, Messi’s debut on July 21 was Most viewed match In the short history of MLS Season Pass and according to Apple, Subscriptions went up Significantly.

On the ground, MLS It broke its July attendance record When over 82,000 fans watched the annual “El Tráfico” match between LA Galaxy and LAFC. In March, NWSL broke the opening weekend attendance record also.

Messi added, “It is time for the league to make this leap and finish growing, and finish looking for what it has been striving for for a while.” “Everything is in place here to watch top-level football because of the country, the structure, and a combination of things.”

Messi’s presence is also a major reason for this growth. His decision to join MLS was due to more lucrative offers in Saudi Arabia or Europe It sparked a boom in ticket buying His talent has already improved the producer in this field. That should, in theory, trickle down to the rest of the league and sports across the United States

But it will take more than one man for the American League to catch up with the European leagues in terms of popularity. English Premier League It averaged 527,000 viewers on NBC platforms in the US compared to the average of 343,000 viewers on ABC and ESPN in 2022. This is a gap that will take some time to fill, but Messi’s play can pick up the pace.

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