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Lionel Messi, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, has taken the MLS by storm since joining Inter Miami CF in July. In the Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup, Messi has looked superhuman, scoring 10 goals in seven games. Fittingly, when his superhero-loving sons are in the stands, he celebrates his goals with a Marvel character pose.

But scoring goals isn’t Messi’s only superpower. It is estimated that his arrival has generated $265 million dollars in ticket sales and his official jersey is sold out until October. Messi’s debut for Inter Miami triggered the biggest one-day subscription increase for Apple TV's MLS streaming service. The Messi effect is rippling through the MLS and its partners.

On August 26, for the first time during this regular season, Red Bulls Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, was sold out. There were 26,276 ticket holders—a record. Fans swarmed the parking lots three hours before the match in a sea of pink jerseys in anticipation of seeing Messi. Music blasted. Fans dribbled soccer balls. Expectations ran high. The crowd was ready to see some magic.

Come game time, however, Messi was not in the starting XI for Inter Miami. It took only six minutes for the arena to break into a thunderous roar: “WE WANT MESSI! WE WANT MESSI!” 

The Messi chants started and stopped several times until Diego Gomez, a midfielder in his Inter Miami debut, snuck one past Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel in the 37th minute. Inter Miami led going into the half, 1–0.

Three minutes into the second half, the bat signal went up. Messi stood to warm up, and the crowd erupted. Anyone with a phone in hand had it directed on the sideline instead of the actual game. When his practice jersey came off, and the substitution was made at the 60-minute mark, the fans went wild.

For the 30 minutes he played, every time the ball rolled near Messi, the crowd hummed in anticipation. Messi attempted a free kick in the 88th minute, but it was blocked by the Red Bulls' wall. It appeared his powers had run out as regulation was ticking away. In the 89th minute, however, Messi got the ball and threaded the needle while being defended by five Red Bulls. He found Benjamin Cremanshi, who touched it right back to Messi, for a wide open shot.


Does Messi have eyes in the back of his head? “He must,” said Inter Miami right back DeAndre Yedlin.

After the game, fireworks flooded the sky in celebration of hip hop’s 50th anniversary. It was a fitting end to seeing Messi explode onto the MLS scene. After all, not all superheroes wear capes—some wear Inter Miami pink kits.