Major League Soccer teams have eagerly awaited the opportunity to host Lionel Messi and Inter Miami, with expectations of record-breaking attendance. Last season, both Charlotte and Atlanta United saw their largest crowds of the season during matches against Inter Miami. The New England Revolution followed suit when they hosted Messi’s side on April 27.

Similar to Charlotte and Atlanta, New England plays in an NFL stadium, Gillette Stadium. Fans from across New England flooded to witness Messi in action, resulting in a record-breaking attendance of 65,612 spectators. This surpassed the previous record set in 2002 when the New England Patriots played the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Argentine lived up to expectations with a stellar performance, scoring twice and assisting in another goal as Inter Miami secured a 4-1 victory. His influence was evident throughout the match, guiding his team to success.

Another spectacle incoming

So now when the ex-Barcelona star graces Saputo Stadium on Saturday, it won’t just be another MLS match; it’ll be a spectacle. His presence alone is enough to transform a routine game into a global event.

Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami last July marked a turning point for the club. They languished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings before his tenure. Now the Herons boast the league’s best record, 7-2-3, and a formidable goal differential of plus-14. This season, they’ve emerged as a dominant force; all thanks in no small part to Messi’s unrivaled talent and leadership on the field.

Meanwhile, Montreal is in a less enviable position, currently occupying 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-4-3 record. The team’s recent 4-1 defeat to Nashville underscores their struggles, having won just one of their last seven MLS games. Additionally, the departure of vice-president and chief sporting officer Olivier Renard adds to the club’s off-field turmoil.

But amidst the on-field battles and administrative changes, one thing remains constant: Lionel Messi’s ability to captivate audiences. His recent stellar performance against the New York Red Bulls has sent ticket prices for the clash with Montreal soaring. The 36-year-old not only scored a goal but also delivered a record-breaking five assists in the second half.

According to Vivid Seats, the average ticket price for the match now stands at a staggering $465, with the best deals starting at $195.

Will Messi sell out Saputo Stadium?

The Inter Miami vs Montreal fixture on May 11 is now ranked among the hottest MLS tickets on record, claiming the seventh spot since 2009. It’s a testament to the superstar’s allure and the fervent desire among fans to witness his genius live in action.

Despite Messi’s drawing power, ticket sales for Saturday’s game at Saputo Stadium have faced challenges. Some fans criticize the steep prices, far exceeding typical rates. Season ticket holders also express surprise at the inflated resale values, reflecting a disconnect between pricing and fan affordability.

Jonah Presser, representing the 1642MTL supporters’ group, highlighted the mismatch between ticket prices and market demand, suggesting that economic constraints deter fans from attending, irrespective of the star attraction.

“When it comes to the club setting the base price essentially for the tickets … in our supporters’ section tickets usually cost $30 to $35 and for the Messi game the individual ticket was priced at $450 by the team. It’s crazy”, he said.

Similarly, Radhouane Rajhi, a first-time season ticket holder influenced by Messi’s presence, voices concern over escalating ticket costs. “I find it’s expensive. I thought they might go for around $300, but not more than that”, he said.

“There was an overestimation of the market. We’re still recovering from a huge economic crisis and people don’t have that kind of money to spend on a two-hour game, regardless of who’s playing.”

The discrepancy between ticket pricing and fan affordability underscores broader economic realities, potentially leading to empty seats at Saputo Stadium despite Messi’s star appeal. As fans navigate the aftermath of a global economic crisis, extravagant ticket prices pose a barrier to attendance, tempering expectations for Saturday’s showdown.

Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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