A few years ago, bringing Lionel Messi — the greatest soccer player of his generation, maybe any generation — to the United States was a romantic notion, a far-fetched fantasy.
And then along came Jorge Mas and Club Internacional de Futbol Miami. Former England superstar David Beckham brought the dream of a world-class American club with him from England, but billionaires Jorge and Jose Mas, who bought into Beckham’s Inter Miami project, brought the means — and an even grander vision.
On June 7, Messi ended months of speculation by announcing he intended to sign with Miami, choosing the South Florida side over an obscenely lucrative offer from Saudi club Al-Hilal and nostalgic overtures from Barcelona.
It still doesn’t seem real. After Leo’s announcement, I called the news the most important event in American soccer history.
Jorge agreed with me. In what Miami Herald soccer writer Michele Kaufman called a “wide-ranging conversation” with a small group of reporters, Mas called signing Messi “the one seminal moment” in U.S. soccer history.
But he went much farther.
“I think there will always be a before and after Messi when we talk about the sport in the United States. I have a very, very strong held belief that we can create in North America and the United States if not the greatest league, one of the top two leagues in the world. I cannot over emphasize the magnitude of this announcement.”
One of the top two? So, us and the English Premier League? That’s an ambitious, ambitious vision; MLS is not even the best league in North America (Viva Liga MX!), at least not yet. And the arrival of Messi will put us on the fast track to bypass Ligue 1, Serie A, La Liga, the Bundesliga?
Golly. More Mas:
“Having the world’s greatest player here is something that is significant for our league, and for the football ecosystem in the United States…Lionel Messi is coming to this country to win cups and make a difference. I think it’s incumbent upon myself and my partners in the league, the other owners, to seize the moment.”
Maybe, just maybe, he’s onto something. Messi — and Busquets and other stalwarts apparently joining him in Miami — certainly will raise MLS’ global profile and revenues. The World Cup is coming to North America in 2026 and the relationship between Liga MX and Major League Soccer is growing. it’s conceivable that more money will flow into the two leagues and spending restrictions will be eased, if not removed entirely, allowing clubs to compete for top talent worldwide, not just the leftovers.
Yeah, it could happen…why not? We’re about to sign Messi; anything is possible!
For more on Mas’ updates, read Michelle Kaufman’s report here.