The Messi effect: Major League Soccer mid-season attendance figures up 7% on 2023

Major League Soccer have released their mid-season attendance figures for the 2024 season, with a 7% rise on last season being a key takeaway of the report.

At this point last season, the average attendance across the league stood at 21,734, whereas this season has seen an increase to an impressive 23,246. If the positive trend continues, MLS projects the increase to stand at a considerable 5.1% come the end of the season in December.

The Lionel Messi factor is impossible to ignore when analysing the reasons behind the jump, with six of the seven teams to have registered increases this season – CF Montréal, Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City, Sporting Kansas City and the Vancouver Whitecaps- set to host or have already hosted Inter Miami.

The Herons themselves have seen a steep, yet hardly surprising 26.6% increase in ticket sales following the arrival of the ex-Barcelona quartet of Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

As well as the obvious effect of one of the greatest players of all time, there are other factors at play. Consistency in scheduling due to the broadcasting contract with Apple TV ( The vast majority of fixtures kick off at 7:30PM local time on a Saturday evening), as well as a surge in season ticket sales and a growing popularity of the sport in anticipation of hosting the 2026 World Cup this year’s Copa America and next year’s expanded Club World Cup have contributed to the growth of the league.

In total, 25 of the 29 MLS franchises have reported attendance increases, with a grand total of 6.5 million fans attending games until now, a rise of 725,000 from last season. Several teams have registered record attendances: Sporting Kansas City moved their game with Miami from Children’s Mercy Park to the NFL’s Arrowhead Stadium and saw 72,610 fans attend the game, the fourth-highest attendance in MLS history and a franchise attendance record. Just a week later, the New England Revolution set their own attendance record, also thanks to the visit of Messi’s Miami.

The arrival of the Argentine superstar has accelerated the rise of MLS, although it would be misleading to say that growth wasn’t happening before his arrival. Soccer, for all the reasons explained above, is rapidly finding its place in a sporting culture with which it has endured a difficult relationship in the past. The future looks bright for Major League Soccer as the league capitalises on a watershed period in its history, up there with the arrival of David Beckham at LA Galaxy back in 2007. Whilst “Beckham mania” providied initial growth that stagnated upon his departure, the boom in interest coinciding with the arrival of the greatest player of all time looks set to be sustainable in the longer term.

Get Football Jack McArdle

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