After winning everything in Europe and winning the World Cup with Argentina’s national team, Lionel Messi has made Miami and Major League Soccer (MLS) soccer teams surrender to his feet with just a few games played.
The “Messi effect,” as many call it, has been noticeable in the state of Florida. DVR PNK Stadium is no longer half-filled as it was in the past. Now, despite the fact that tickets have gone up by as much as 1000%, no seat is left empty.
The same is true outside of Miami. For the match against FC Dallas on Sunday, August 6, corresponding to the round of 16 of the Leagues Cup, the more than 20,000 tickets available to enter Toyota Stadium sold out in 18 minutes. It’s crazy!
Undoubtedly, the arrival of the Argentine star marked a milestone in MLS, a league that was founded just over 27 years ago and has seen renowned players such as David Beckham, now co-owner of Inter Miami; Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Wayne Rooney, Andrea Pirlo, Kaká, Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama, Thierry Henry and other elite players.
Miami soccer teams: Let’s take a look
MLS is composed of 26 teams from the United States and another three from Canada. Therefore, the league is overseen by the US Soccer Federation and the Canadian Soccer Association.
Of the total number of teams, only two are based in the state of Florida: Messi’s Inter Miami and Orlando City. What is their history? Which players are on their squads? Let’s take a look at each.
Inter Miami, a team on the rise
Miami International Football Club, known as Inter of Miami, is a relatively new team. It was founded in 2018 by a group of investors led by businessman Jorge Mas and former Real Madrid and Manchester United star David Beckham.
With little travel within MLS, the best season of the flamingos (as they are also known for their pink uniform) was in 2022, when they placed sixth in the Eastern Conference. That year they played in the playoffs for the second time in their history, where they lost in the first round (3-0) to NYCFC.
Prior to Messi’s arrival and the boom in Miami soccer teams, Inter’s most mediatic signing had been Gonzalo Higuain, also an Argentinean and the club’s all-time leading scorer with 29 goals.
The current roster of the team coached by Gerardo “El Tata” Martino includes high-caliber players such as Sergio Busquet and Jordi Alba, former teammates of Messi at Barcelona; Ecuadorian international Leonardo Campana and Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez, winner of the Golden Boot in 2018 with 31 goals while wearing the uniform of Atlanta United.
Also playing for Inter is Argentine Nicolás Stefanelli, who has experience with clubs in Argentina, Sweden, Chile and Cyprus. Other notable players include Frenchman Corentin Jean, formerly of RC Lens, and Americans Robbie Robinson, Jake Lacava and Robert Taylor.
The truth of the matter is that Messi arrives at Inter Miami, which is at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 18 points after 5 wins, 3 draws and 14 defeats.
Will he be able to change the club’s course? Inter Miami players have said they feel more motivated since Messi’s arrival and the results confirm it: the team has achieved three consecutive victories in the Leagues Cup with five goals from the Argentine.
Orlando City, the club that signed Kaká
Although it debuted in MLS in the 2015 season, Orlando City Soccer Club – later renamed Orlando City – was founded in 2010 and played in the US third division until September 2014.
Being the other club representing the state of Florida, it is obvious that their classic rival is Inter of Miami, whom they faced last August 2 in the round of 16 of the Leagues Cup. The result? 3-1 in favor of the Herons, with two goals from top star Lionel Messi.
In their inaugural season, their star signing was Brazilian Kaka. And although Orlando City has not been MLS champion, it has proven to be a competitive team in the tournament with a passionate fan base that turns Exploria Stadium into a true celebration of colors.
The 2022 US Open Cup championship and a final of the MLS is Back Tournament, in 2020, are on their roster.
In the current MLS season, the Lions are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 37 points (10 wins, 7 draws and 6 losses). Their roster includes young Uruguayan Facundo Torres, a former Peñarol striker; Brazilian defender Antonio Carlos Cunha (on loan from Palmeiras), and Argentine midfielder Martín Ojeda, who has experience with Racing Club and Godoy Cruz.
Messi Inter Miami: how to feel the effect of his arrival
Messi’s debut at Inter Miami could not have been any other way but the way it happened: with a free kick goal in the 94th minute to give his team the win against Cruz Azul, and with LeBron James, Serena Williams and Kim Kardashian among the more than 21 thousand spectators who attended the stadium. Never before had anything like this been seen in Miami soccer teams!
In terms of television viewership, the number of viewers exceeded 12.5 million, not counting those who connected via unauthorized platforms.
The Messi effect is not only evident on the pitch. His impact is so great that Dallas FC head coach Nico Estevez, an eight-year MLS veteran, said he had “never seen anything like it until Leo came along.” And boy, is he right.
Without going too far, Inter Miami is the main beneficiary with the arrival of the captain of the Argentine national team. On Instagram they went from 1 million followers to 13.2 million followers in just over 15 days. And of course, the figure continues to rise with each passing day.
30$ tickets are now available for up to 600$ and all of them are sold out in record time. As far as the local economy is concerned, Messi’s image can be seen on the facades of large and small restaurants that, in addition to MLB or NFL, now broadcast Inter Miami games.
In fact, there are restaurants that have modified their menu to include Messi-themed dishes. There is one that created the “MilaMessi”, a hamburger that simulates the ones (supposedly) made by the Argentinean star’s mother. Could it be true?
In the tourism sector, hotels have registered an increase in occupancy rates since Messi’s arrival, mainly those near Fort Lauderdale.
Inter Miami schedule: know when Messi plays
- Inter Miami vs. Charlotte FC 08/20/08 (7:30 PM) Condition: home
- Inter Miami vs. Cincinnati 8/23/08 (U.S Open Club, semifinal, 7:30 PM) Condition: away
- Inter of Miami vs. New York RB 8/26/08 (7:30 PM) Condition: away
- Inter of Miami Vs Nashville SC 8/30/08 (7:30 PM) Condition: home
- Inter of Miami Vs LAFC 03/9 (10:00 PM) Condition: away
- Inter of Miami vs Sporting KC 09/9 Condition: Home
- Inter of Miami Vs Atlanta United 16/9 (5:00 PM) Condition: away
- Inter of Miami vs. Toronto 20/9 (7:30 PM) Condition: home
- Inter of Miami vs. Orlando City 9/24 (7:30 PM) Condition: away
- Inter of Miami vs. Chicago Fire 4/10 (8:30 PM) Condition: away
- Inter Miami vs. Cincinnati 7/10 (7:30 PM) Condition: Home
- Inter of Miami vs. Charlotte FC 10/21 (6:00 PM) Condition: Away
MLS at a glance: players, stats and more
Although Messi and Inter Miami are in the media spotlight, it is worth noting that MLS has 29 teams divided into two conferences. In the East, where Inter Miami plays, there are a total of 15 teams, while in the West there are 14.
For the 2025 season, MLS will add another team to reach 30: San Diego FC. The one that joined this 2023 season, St. Louis City, is leaving everyone surprised by placing first in the Western Conference, above favorites Seattle Sounders or LAFC.
According to Transfermarkt, there are 872 players in MLS, of which 501 (57.5%) are foreigners. The average age is 25.9 and the most valuable player is Messi, whose salary is presumed to be around US$40 million plus other benefits.
In MLS, the format prioritizes crossings between teams from the same conference, in addition to several matches between both divisions.
Specifically, teams from the West play two games against each of their hemisphere (coastal) rivals, as well as one game against six or seven teams from the other conference. In addition, they also play two games against two teams from their own group.
In the East, they play each other twice, plus a game against six teams from the Western Conference.
When the regular season is completed, eight teams from each conference advance to the playoffs. Those ranked 1st through 7th advance outright, while those ranked 8th and 9th play a single wild card game.
Then, the crossings are as follows: 1 vs 8; 2vs 7; 3 vs 6; and 4 vs 5.
In the first round, the winner of two out of three games qualifies. After that, each game is direct elimination until the conference finals and, subsequently, the absolute final.
Outstanding Miami soccer teams players
Prior to Messi’s arrival, many critics of MLS considered it “the league of retirement”. Now, the perception of soccer lovers seems to be different, as MLS has produced players who have made the leap to Europe. One example is Paraguayan striker Miguel Almirón, who moved from Atlanta United to Newcastle United FC in the Premier League.
The 2023 season features names like Thiago Almada, who is excelling with Atlanta United, as well as Brazilian Talles Magno with NYCFC and 18-year-old Argentine-American Benjamin Cremaschi, a starter alongside Messi at Inter Miami.
There are many quality players in MLS, but to keep the list short, let’s name just five:
- Mexico’s Carlos Vela (LAFC), who holds the record for most goals scored in a season (2019) with 34.
- Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri (Chicago Fire FC), former Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Lyon player.
- Javier “El Chicharito” Hernández (LA Galaxy), top scorer for the Mexican national team.
- Nicolás Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders), former Uruguayan player of Ajax, Corinthians and Boca Juniors.
- Héctor Herrera (Houston Dynamo), Mexican national team midfielder.
- Order your banquet to support your team by eating something tasty from Chifa Du Kang.
Watch your team win while eating a delicious Chinese-Peruvian dish? Good idea!
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Enjoy the Miami soccer teams delighting your palate with an explosion of flavors.
The Messi effect is also felt at Chifa Du Kang! Visit our restaurant and try the most delicious chifa classics such as Arroz con Pollo, Tipakay and Lomo Saltado while celebrating Messi’s goals.
Soccer plus Chinese-Peruvian food equals an unforgettable experience, be part of this combination!