Digimagaz.com – Lionel Messi, the renowned forward for Inter Miami, has voiced his belief that Major League Soccer (MLS) has a substantial opportunity to bridge the gap between its standard and that of Europe’s top football leagues before the upcoming 2026 World Cup, set to be jointly hosted by Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Messi, who recently made a significant move from Paris Saint-Germain to Inter Miami, has quickly asserted his presence by netting nine goals in just six appearances for his new team.
The forthcoming World Cup, with its unique three-nation hosting format, guarantees automatic qualification for the host countries, a factor that is anticipated to significantly elevate soccer interest in the United States and consequently boost MLS viewership and development.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Messi expressed his optimism, stating, “I think it has every opportunity to do so [catch up with European football]. That growth depends a lot on the league. It’s an ideal moment to grow. There are important competitions upcoming that will be played in this country [2024 Copa America, 2026 FIFA World Cup]. It’s time for the league to make that leap and finish growing, finish looking for what it’s been seeking for a while. Everything is in place here to witness top-level football because of the country, the structure, a bunch of things.”
With a clear nod to the recent positive trajectory of soccer in the United States, Messi noted, “I think that soccer in the US has grown a lot in this last year. It has shown that in the results the USMNT have had lately. It was a great squad in the World Cup, too. Very competitive. It held its own against every team it had on its slate. It’s getting closer and closer to the level of Mexican soccer. This Leagues Cup demonstrated that. There is no Mexican team in the final. While you can question a lot of things, the reality is all the matches were very close, very competitive. Anybody can beat anyone else. I get the sense that the same happens in [MLS]. It’s a competitive one where anybody can win. One where the home team is strong, and it’s difficult to win away. I’ll still be getting to know a little bit of that after my first match.”
Messi’s outlook on the growth potential of MLS aligns with the recent success of his own team, Inter Miami, who have secured a spot in the Leagues Cup final after a series of impressive cup appearances. Messi praised his team’s development under coach Gerardo Martino, stating, “The team has grown greatly, especially since [Martino’s] arrival, and we’re happy to have met our first goal, which is CONCACAF Champions Cup qualifying. Now, we can play a final.”
As Messi and Inter Miami continue their pursuit of the Leagues Cup title, his words serve as a testament to the rising stature of MLS on the global soccer stage. With the 2026 World Cup on the horizon, the league stands at a pivotal juncture, poised to further elevate its standing and potentially narrow the gap with Europe’s football elites.