CHICAGO — The announcement that Lionel Messi was joining Major League Soccer sent shockwaves throughout the sports world this week — and Chicago Fire FC are ready to cash in on the opportunity.
The Argentine forward, considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, announced Wednesday he was joining Inter Miami CF. The team will face the Fire at Soldier Field on Oct. 4, and ticket prices are already soaring.
Tickets were selling for more than $4,000 on Ticketmaster on Friday. The cheapest seats were around $338, taxes and fees included.
By comparison, two tickets to the June 10 Fire game against Columbus Crew cost roughly $44, including taxes and fees.
Chicago-based soccer fan Ernesto Gonzales is a “huge fan” of Messi, he said. He managed to buy a $60 ticket before the surge, anticipating Messi’s move to the MLS.
Other fans haven’t been so lucky. Alejandro Miramontes, a solo season ticket holder, said he was unable to transfer his tickets for other games to snag another ticket for the Messi match. Tim Wright said his three tickets for himself and two sons were refunded from Seatgeek shortly after he bought them, before Messi’s announcement.
A Chicago Fire spokesperson said the team has capped the number of tickets season ticket holders can trade for the Oct. 4 match to ensure fair access to tickets. As for Wright’s experience, that’s out of the team’s control because he received tickets through a reseller.
The Fire have sold more than 12,000 tickets since Wednesday, the spokesperson said. Prior to Messi’s announcement, less than 10,000 tickets had been sold for the October match.
The spokesperson said they are considering opening the upper decks of the 61,000-seat Soldier Field if demand continues at this pace.
The average attendance of a Fire game is 18,287 in warmer months.
“We are extremely pleased to see one of the best players ever to play the game say he plans to join MLS this summer,” the Fire spokesperson said. “It’s an exciting time for all of us within MLS and for soccer fans throughout North America. This is further proof that MLS is a ‘League of Choice’ for top international players, including Chicago Fire and Swiss superstar, Xherdan Shaqiri.”
Messi, 35, could net as much as $150 million from his two-and-a-half year contract, which reportedly includes a stake in the team, according to the Miami Herald. He turned down offers from Saudi Arabian team Al-Hilal for $1.6 billion and FC Barcelona, where he played the majority of his career.
With the World Cup coming to the United States in 2026, Messi’s move from Paris Saint-Germain FC to Inter Miami is seen as a similar and potentially more impactful effort to grow the league than when another soccer great, England midfielder David Beckham, left Madrid to join LA Galaxy in 2007.
Beckham is a part-owner of Inter Miami — and Messi’s new boss.
“Selfishly, I wanted the fairy tale to end with him at Barcelona, but with those feelings aside, I am extremely happy he chose the U.S. as his next destination,” Gonzales said. “I hope that the other attention of the greatest soccer player ever can spark the support that this global sport merits.”
Casey Toner, another Chicago soccer fan, attended a match in 2016 at Soldier Field with Messi leading the Argentina national team against Panama, when Messi scored a hat trick in less than 30 minutes.
“I think it’s dope he’s coming to the MLS,” Toner said. “He’ll be a huge draw, and the league has gotten so much better. It’s good for American soccer.”
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