Lionel Messi, MLS
Lionel Messi's shirt was sold-out minutes after he was announced as a new Inter Miami player RICH STORRY/USA TODAY SPORTS

SEATTLE - The 'Messimania' in the United States is not showing signs of stopping anytime soon. Not even 12 months into his arrival to Major League Soccer, Lionel Messi has totally transformed the way fans are consuming the league. Increased shirt sales, more engagement in social media and a larger volume of tickets sold can all be attributed to the Argentine's presence.

Even celebrities can't help but attend Inter Miami's games just to see Messi

With still over a month to go, more than 60,000 fans have already purchased their ticket at Foxborough's Gillette Stadium to watch -or not- Messi & Co. take on the New England Revolution. It's probably not a coincidence that MLS has seen a rise on their attendance since July 2023, when Messi made his Inter Miami debut. Last season, an all-time high of almost 11 million fans went to the stadiums and watched a live MLS game, a 5% increase compared to 2022.

The average attendance per match also went up, adding more than 1,000 fans per match compared to the previous year, making the average of 22,111 fans the highest ever in a single MLS season. And Inter Miami was the hottest ticket around since adding the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner to its ranks.

Although the Herons have traveled 10 times since Messi's arrival, he's only managed to play four games on the road. New York, Los Angeles and Charlotte were witnesses of the so-called "Messimania." With Inter Miami being the hottest ticket around MLS at the moment, their clash against Charlotte FC attracted a crowd of 66,101 fans to watch Messi face their local team. Messi's presence also drew the biggest crowd for a regular season game in LA Galaxy history, with more than 27,000 people attending the game.

This was a similar to what happened in the city of Chicago. Despite missing the game due to injury, the opportunity to see Messi play live was too good to pass for the more than 62,000 fans that filled up Soldier Field. At a stadium that has averaged about 14,000 fans for regular season matches, Chicago's stadium saw its biggest crowd ever for a soccer game, surpassing the previous mark of 41,000 set in 1997.

More than 70,000 fans purchased a ticket for Inter Miami's visit to Atlanta United but, unfortunately for them, the Argentine star did not play a single minute. That didn't stop fans from almost setting a new attendance record at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the venue with the highest average attendance in the league. In the history of the franchise, only three other games have surpassed -marginally- the 71,635 mark.

Lionel Messi fans, MLS
Kids outside of LA Galaxy's Dignity Health Sports Stadium to watch Inter Miami and Lionel Messi Via Marca/LAPRESSE

Regardless of whether he will play, Inter Miami's visit to New England seems to be one of the be one of the biggest soccer nights for the region. With just over 5,000 tickets left available, the Inter Miami-Revolution match could be the third time in the venue's 23-year history to surpass 64,000 fans in attendance. The highest-attended soccer match in the building came on September 12, 2007, an international friendly between Brazil and Mexico with 67,584 fans on hand. On June 4, 2011, a matchup of Spain and the United States saw 64,121 attend the international friendly.

If the numbers are true, Messi's visit to the Northeast could set a new regular season record for the Revolution, whose current record stands at 57,407 fans set on April 20, 1997 when New England hosted the Tampa Bay Mutiny in a doubleheader with a FIFA World Cup Qualifying match between Mexico and the United States. Having already set attendance numbers on fire, Foxborough will be the latest city to be included in the "Messimania" that has taken over the United States for almost a year. Do not expect it to slow down.

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