Let’s face it. MLS desperately needs Lionel Messi. At 36 years old later this month, this may be the last best chance for league officials to sign the Argentine superstar to a contract. If the World Cup winner goes to Saudi Arabia or returns to Barcelona, it may be too late for Messi to then end his career afterwards in the United States. It feels like a now or never situation.

MLS needs Messi more than Messi needs to play in MLS. The league knows that this would be a transformative signing. Messi joining MLS club Inter Miami would be rocket fuel for the league’s popularity in the United States, as well as being the key to making MLS Season Pass from Apple TV a success. And a global success at that. MLS’s streaming subscription service is tailor made to showcase a player such as Messi, giving fans the ability to subscribe and watch games from around the world through Apple TV.

What MLS Season Pass doesn’t have right now is a compelling reason for fans to subscribe. With a lack of major stars and very few talking points, signing Messi would instantly make MLS Season Pass a must-have subscription service. So much so that MLS and Apple executives have discussed giving Messi a share of the revenue generated by new subscribers to MLS Season Pass, according to a report in The Athletic.

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Inter Miami isn’t ready for Messi

The reality of this whole situation, though, is that Inter Miami isn’t ready for Messi. The team plays at a temporary stadium in Fort Lauderdale that only has a capacity of 18,000. Construction on a new stadium near the Miami International Airport hasn’t started, and it’s likely that the state-of-the-art stadium won’t be ready until 2026. At the same time, Inter Miami has the worst squad in all of Major League Soccer. The current 2023 squad is imbalanced, and needs a complete overhaul from defense through midfield and forwards to become a winning team.

Inter Miami was last in the league last year based on attendance, and the team is currently in last place in the Eastern Conference.

Currently, this is not a team that would help Messi in his preparations to play in the 2024 Copa America. That’s a huge concern in his attempts to be ready to retain the biggest trophy in South America.

Yes, Messi playing in MLS would be more competitive than the Saudi Pro League. But perhaps Messi can play in Leagues Cup this July followed by several weeks in MLS league play? And then MLS can loan Messi out to Barcelona from late October to late February? That’ll give Messi a chance to play in the UEFA Champions League and LaLiga with Barcelona, saying his farewell to Catalonia, before returning to play in MLS in the final months of preparation before next summer’s Copa America.

Living in Miami enticing to Messi familia

Miami, the city and culture, is perfect for Messi. This is a part of the world where Messi and his family want to live.

In 2020, Messi said, “I would like to play in the United States and experience life and the league there, but ultimately come back to Barcelona in some capacity.”

If the superstar is willing to overlook the inadequacies of the team, facilities and stadium and focus on the positives, there’s hope for the league. Everyone in the United States wants him to play here, including us. Ultimately, it comes down to the player and his family deciding on what is best for him even if Saudi Arabia can financially offer him more money than anyone.

Guide to Major League Soccer

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of MLS Season Pass!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
Season Pass FAQ: We answer your questions about MLS Season Pass
Sign up: Learn how to subscribe to MLS Season Pass
Commentators: Check out who's calling the action for the MLS season
Android users Tips for fans Android users on how to watch MLS Season Pass

Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire