Counterfeiters are one of the biggest beneficiaries of Messi jerseys. The Argentine’s arrival in Major League Soccer yielded unprecedented global attention for the league. His debut against Cruz Azul and first start against Atlanta United were two of the three most-watched games on MLS Season Pass. On Univision, alone, his debut pulled in a cool 1.75 million viewers.

To jump in on the action, thousands of soccer fans worldwide are trying to get their hands on Lionel Messi Inter Miami jerseys, and counterfeiters are taking advantage. For instance, there are counterfeit Lionel Messi jerseys selling for under $30 on Etsy. By comparison, the official replica Messi jersey on the MLS Store is $125.

At first glance, there appears to be little to no difference between the Etsy jersey and the MLS Store jersey. However, one is roughly $100 less. Also, MLS Store orders on Messi jerseys are backlogged through October. Meanwhile, the counterfeit shirts are readily available (the official jerseys only launched on July 17, but they rapidly sold out).

Counterfeiting is rife outside Inter Miami’s stadium

Vendors illegally selling counterfeit jerseys online is one thing, but the fake shirts are also available overseas and outside Inter Miami’s own stadium.

“[A person] was telling me that in Ecuador, you can get the Inter Miami jersey — [it] looks like the same one — for ten bucks,” said Ed Serrano, co-host of the popular Futbol Miami TV channel. One of the viewers to the show added that counterfeit Messi shirts are selling in Morocco for between $5 and $8.

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It’s not just online or overseas where fans are buying counterfeit shirts. Fake Messi jerseys and other merchandise are being sold by vendors outside every Inter Miami game.

Futbol Miami TV co-host Pieter Brown explained he saw a vendor outside DRV PNK Stadium rolling around a suitcase on wheels that was full of knockoff merchandise for sale.

“For South Americans, I read somewhere that many don’t have a problem with buying counterfeit [merchandise],” said Brown. “Maybe that’s because they’re so used to it.”

Counterfeiters are capitalizing on a lack of product too. For instance, they’re creating Messi bucket hats that aren’t commercially available. “[The counterfeiters] are selling them like hotcakes,” explained Brown. “Those were going for twenty bucks. There are even scarves, too [being sold].”

Quality of fake merchandise

With all those backorder issues and the price for a legitimate replica jersey, some more casual fans may look to a store online to save some money. However, upon purchasing one of those counterfeit kits, buyers are likely to find a lower quality jersey.

“On some of these counterfeit jerseys, the pink is really good,” says Brown. “[On] others, it’s off. It’s obviously not just one Chinese manufacturer making them all. It’s a mix.”

Few can argue about the price point, though, even if it is a knockoff.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire

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