Apple wins as soccer takes over American sports

“Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami marks a historic moment for the sport in the U.S. and reflects the incredible momentum behind Major League Soccer,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services, said in a statement in July. “We couldn’t be more excited to give fans around the world the opportunity to watch the greatest footballer of all time on MLS Season Pass.”

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

Aden Ikram for Fortune:

On Independence Day, 82,110 screaming fans packed the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, blowing past Super Bowl LVII’s attendance of 67,827 just months earlier. More shockingly, the record-shattering turnout was only for a regular season Major League Soccer (MLS) match, as soccer’s popularity soars at the expense of traditional American sports.

Last year, the 2022 FIFA World Cup final drew 26 million U.S. viewers on linear TV–more than the NBA Finals (13 million), the World Series (12 million), PGA Finals (10 million), Stanley Cup (5 million), and even the Winter Olympics (12 million). In fact, a mere group-stage World Cup match, U.S.A vs. England, was watched by some 15 million American viewers.

[MLS] is the one and only traditional sports league that attracts the same demographics as streamers, including Gen Z males. In fact, it has the youngest audience among all legacy leagues…

As part of Apple’s $2.5 billion, 10-year worldwide deal with MLS, the tech giant has launched an MLS Season Pass within the Apple TV app. Apple TV Commissioner Don Graber describes it as “a game changer,” streaming all the games live, with no blackouts, across Apple devices in 100+ countries.
In a groundbreaking deal, Apple brokered an unprecedented revenue-sharing agreement with soccer superstar Lionel Messi. It spurred him to join Inter Miami CF, further driving soccer’s explosion in the U.S.

It’s no wonder that when fighting back tears of joy in Messi’s debut post-game interview, David Beckham (co-owner of Inter Miami CF) said, “It is such a moment for this country and for this league.” It was also a major moment for Apple, who scored big with their investment in the beautiful game that’s on the verge of taking over America.

MacDailyNews Take: Messi’s arrival is also seriously boosting Inter Miami CF which, prior to Messi’s arrival, couldn’t win a game to save its collective life. With Messi, it’s immediately a team with which to be reckoned.

As we wrote in early June of the pending deal:

[This is] multiple times bigger than David Beckham joining LA Galaxy in 2007. (As part of his deal, Beckham received the option to purchase an MLS expansion team for $25 million after he finished his playing career, which he did: Inter Miami.)

Messi to Inter Miami [will] be an immeasurable boon to MLS, Apple TV+, MLS Season Pass, football (soccer) in America, and, of course, Inter Miami (currently dead last in the MLS Eastern Conference; funnily enough, the same spot LA Galaxy currently occupies in the Western Conference. It seems as if all of the stars are somehow aligned).

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  1. American football is still king in America! Soccer is about as much fun to watch as golf. The MLS is for soccer players not good enough for the more competitive soccer leagues found elsewhere in the world.

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