The news of Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami has sent shockwaves throughout soccer. The Argentine superstar's arrival in Major League Soccer is planned on July 21 and will significantly impact the league's development. It aligns with Argentina's ambitious plans to expand its soccer brand in the United States. With the Argentina Football Federation (AFA) setting its sights on the U.S. market, the stage is set for an exciting new chapter.
Argentina's recent success on the international stage, culminating in winning the 2021 Copa América and the FIFA World Cup, has boosted the country's soccer brand worldwide. Capitalizing on this momentum, the AFA has embarked on a 10-year project to transform its brand and expand its commercial reach globally. As part of this strategy, the AFA focuses on the U.S. market, recognizing its vast growth potential.
Establishing a Home in North America
The AFA plans to build a dedicated training facility and establish its U.S. headquarters in Miami to solidify its presence there. The state-of-the-art North Bay Village (Miami) facility will be a base for the AFA's operations and house training facilities, pitches, and recreational spaces.
In addition to the training facility, the AFA's U.S. expansion includes plans to establish youth academies nationwide. AFA coaches will lead these academies and train players and local coaches using the latest Argentine football methodologies. A key focus will be scouting dual-national talent, as many players in the U.S. with Argentine heritage may choose to represent Argentina internationally. By tapping into this talent pool, Argentina aims to strengthen its player development pipeline and enhance its national team.
Commercial Partnerships and Brand Image
The AFA has been actively pursuing commercial partnerships globally, and its success in securing over 150 partners is a testament to the strength of the Argentine football brand. The recent triumphs of the national team, led by Messi, have further boosted interest from potential sponsors and parties. As a result, American brands such as Coca-Cola and Binance adorn the warm-up outfit of the Argentines. The AFA's expansion into the U.S. market presents an opportunity for collaboration with top sports leagues, corporations, and local governments. The aim is to establish long-term agreements between Argentine clubs and their MLS counterparts and potentially bring high-profile matches like the SuperClásico to the U.S.
The Potential Impact of Messi's Arrival in MLS
Messi's move to Inter Miami is undoubtedly revolutionary for the AFA's project. It creates a significant buzz and further elevates the Argentina national team brand in the American mark t. He is considered (one of) the greatest soccer player(s) of all time. Winning the World Cup for Argentina solidified his legal y. His move to MLS is also perfect for soccer in the United States, with the upcoming World Cup on American soil.
Despite receiving a billion-dollar offer from a Saudi Arabian club, Messi chose MLS, which includes reported revenue-sharing components with Apple and Adid s. Last year, MLS signed a $2.5 billion exclusive ten-year contract with Apple T.V. The digital giant would broadcast all MLS matches in 100 countries on its platform. The Messi deal alone has the potential to be worth billions of dollars and is a significant business opportunity.
Messi will take MLS to another level. There will be more money spent on salaries. Millions of people will be tuning into a league they never watched before. Every Messi game can be something special, an event in itself. Pregame broadcasts highlight the atmosphere surrounding games at home and on the road, In English and Spanish, because Messi will speak Spanish during the interviews after games.
Apple TV+ will get a boost globally from people who want to see Messi. Is there a sweet spot to air Inter Miami’s games that will be desirable to North American audiences and audiences in Europe and South America? Starting in 2024, Apple and MLS must know how to showcase MLS to the world. Moving Inter Miami’s home games earlier in the day might be better for global viewership. Still, it also would bring another complication, forcing players to compete in the midday heat of a South Florida summer.
How many Messi Burgers will be ordered at Hard Rock Cafe?
In his MLS journey with Inter Miami, Messi is expected to bring dominant longevity similar to Tom Brady in football, along with his unique flair that even Stephen Curry envies. While MLS may still be seen as a retirement league for European soccer stars, Messi's presence could help elevate the competition and raise the league's status.
Experts believe that Messi's goal is to become globally renowned as Michael Jordan and that tapping into the United States is crucial. Although Messi says he wants to slow down and enjoy life more, the operation seems well-prepared and thought out. Miami provides Messi and his family with investment opportunities at the intersection of soccer and tech. According to Yahoo, Messi launched a holding company in Silicon Valley in 2022. Messi's stardom and fame will reach new heights, with the Copa America and the World Cup taking place in the U.S. over the next three summers. This level of exposure would not have been possible in Saudi Arabia.
Like Taylor Swift's ability to sell records worldwide, Messi has the power to attract fans and boost the popularity of MLS and its partners, particularly Apple TV+, which owns the broadcasting rights to the MLS. Messi receives a percentage of the revenues, which will multiply quickly. Apple TV+ also will air a documentary on Messi. His whole deal must be in the hundreds of millions. The impact from a business sense is enormous, and any price might have been worth it. Apple will make a mark in sports, and several other businesses, including Adidas, will see their earnings multiply. For example, Messi is also an ambassador for Hard Rock Cafe, of which Miami also has a popular venue. How many Messi burgers will be ordered in the next few years?
Shortly after his deal with David Beckham's Pink Flamingos became public, several numbers skyrocketed. In moments, Inter had gained 4 million followers on socials. Ticket prices for home games went heavily over the top. The enthusiasm is almost limitless.
Young soccer fans still predominantly wear jerseys of European clubs like Barcelona, Manchester City, Liverpool, and AC Milan. However, with Messi's arrival, there is a possibility that the popularity of MLS teams such as NYCFC, L.A. Galaxy, and Inter Miami will increase, leading to more kids proudly sporting their local team's colors. By bringing his magic to MLS, Messi's arrival might signify a turning point for the league in its pursuit of competing with the top leagues globally. The Argentine AFA will be pleased if that includes children with Argentine roots.
The actual impact will be evaluated in the next decade
Indeed, there are risks associated with high-stakes deals like the Messi one. The enormous amount of money involved raises concerns about potential injuries or loss of interest on Messi's part. Nonetheless, this move represents the culmination of Messi's legendary career, and its impact on soccer in the United States may not be fully realized until the next decade.
Shifting from Paris and the Champions League to Inter Miami isn't just about changing jerseys for Messi. According to the Miami Herald, the footballer and his family own several properties, including a luxurious Porsche Design Tower Miami condo. The Tower boasts 132 residential units with summer kitchens, fireplaces, and in-unit garages for owners to house their prized vehicles. This is made possible by a unique system: the Deze vator. The Dezervator is a one-of-a-kind elevator that transports you and your car to your unit. In addition, residents may take advantage of the car concierge services, including valeting and maintenance of their vehicles.
The birth of Little Buenos Aires
The arrival of Messi in Inter Miami undoubtedly strengthens the connection between the city and the Argentine community. Recently, many Argentines have been arriving in Miami, seeking better economic opportunities and escaping the hardships of a recession in their home country. This unnoticed "Argentine invasion" has gradually made its presence felt in various aspects of Miami's cultural landscape.
The luxury Messi can afford starkly contrasts the conditions where many of his (former) compatriots find them elves. Most of the 50,000 Argentines in Miami work hard to make ends meet and keep their American dream alive.
Roberto Brignes, co-owner of Buenos Aires Market, left Argentina a decade ago and faced criticism. As Argentines flock to Miami significantly, his decision is seen as visionary. Miami Beach is experiencing an influx of Argentines, from valet parking attendants and car wash workers to restaurant staff. These newcomers have established their community, transforming a less fashionable part of north Miami Beach into "Little Buenos Aires."
Is it spiraling out of control?
The success of businesses like Buenos Aires Market and Cafe Prima Pasta, owned by Gerardo Cea, demonstrates Miami's demand for Argentinean products and cuisine. Cea, who once dreamed of opening a restaurant on Miami Beach, never anticipated the overwhelming response from Argentinean customers. However, the surge of arrivals has reached a point where Cea worries about the situation spiraling out of control.
While many young middle-class professionals seek better opportunities due to the economic squeeze in Argentina, wealthy business people also aim to transfer their investments abroad. Miami's booming real estate market has become an attractive option for property investments, with Argentineans backing various projects. The Argentinean exodus has caught immigration officials off guard, and although precise figures are unavailable, estimates suggest that up to 100,000 Argentines may reside in South Florida.
Argentina faced economic unraveling in the late 1980s, followed by a burst bubble three years ago. Rising unemployment, homelessness, prostitution, and violent crime have added to hopelessness. Andres Oppenheimer, an Argentine-born journalist, attributes these issues to massive tax evasion and official corruption that have eroded confidence in the government and public institutions.
A better tomorrow
As more Argentines seek a brighter future in Miami, stories of personal and professional setbacks are expected. Individuals like Juan Herrera, who left his family's bakery due to the recession, and Carlos Belvedere, a former restaurateur, express the tragic impact on their lives and their lack of faith in Argentina's future.
The Argentinean exodus has reshaped the cultural landscape of Miami, joining the ranks of other exile populations. While Miami has welcomed various communities over the years, the emergence of "Little Buenos Aires" signifies an unprecedented development. As Argentina faces its challenges, Miami provides a newfound refuge for those seeking stability and hope for a better tomorrow.
Billionaire Lionel Messi and his wife Antonella are now two o them. And if their sons Thiago (10), Mateo (7) and Ciro (5) can play soccer as well as their dad, America and Argentina are going to have beautiful years ahead.