Bigger than Beckham: Messi has the power to realise soccer’s potential in the US

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Never before has MLS given up so much to sign a player. But with the 2026 World Cup on the horizon, the move could end up being a wise one

Ireland News, Ireland Headlines

Neymar Jr., Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi warm up before the French Ligue 1 soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Lille, in Paris, France, earlier this year. Photograph: Mohammed Badra/EPA

Beckham changed the league. MLS grew from 13 teams at the time of his signing to the current number of 29 – the league’s 30th franchise will join in 2025. Beckham sold 300,000 LA Galaxy jerseys a season during his five-and-a-half years at the club. He appeared on late-night talkshows and in adverts with NFL stars. Without the Englishman’s star power, MLS would look very different.

The allure of Miami itself should not be ignored. He already owns property there and his family are said to enjoy the city, which has a large Spanish-speaking population: language barriers should not be a problem for the Messis. The governing body of Argentinian soccer also plans to build a facility in Miami, and more and more South Americans are joining MLS.

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