The Impact of Lionel Messi on MLS Betting

Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami CF last season not only elevated the game for his new club but also significantly raised the profile of Major League Soccer. This move led to a surge in betting activity surrounding the soccer superstar and his team in South Florida. According to Chris Schlosser, MLS’ senior vice president of emerging ventures, the league experienced record betting handle last year with substantial growth across major books from 2022 to 2023.

In the previous season, Messi, along with former Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, joined Inter Miami, a team that was struggling at the bottom of the league standings. Despite their efforts, the team failed to make it to the MLS Cup playoffs. However, ahead of the 2024 season, Inter Miami strengthened its squad by adding another former Barcelona star, Luis Suárez. This move solidified Inter Miami as the most talented team in the league and positioned them as clear favorites to win the MLS Cup this season.

Shift in Betting Odds

Bookmakers like ESPN BET and BetMGM are offering favorable odds for Inter Miami, with BetMGM reporting a significant percentage of its MLS futures tickets placed on the Herons. DraftKings also notes a high volume of bets and handle on Inter Miami to win the championship. Johnny Avello, director of race and sportsbook operations at DraftKings, highlighted the early release of MLS Cup futures, anticipating the hype around Messi’s team.

While Inter Miami is receiving widespread attention at legal online sportsbooks like Hard Rock Bet, not everyone believes they are the team to beat this season. FanDuel reports that the club ranks second in its betting splits, trailing FC Cincinnati in terms of betting activity. Other MLS teams such as Colorado, Columbus, Orlando, Portland, and Cincinnati are attracting sharp action at the books, despite having less hype surrounding them.

Challenges Ahead for Inter Miami

Inter Miami’s favorable odds to win the MLS Cup are not without challenges. The team’s aging roster, with key players like Messi, Alba, Busquets, and Suárez in their mid-30s, raises concerns about injuries throughout the season. Additionally, the team’s schedule, which includes various competitions like the Concacaf Champions Cup and the Leagues Cup, along with international commitments for players like Messi, adds complexity to their campaign.

Impact on MLS and the Betting Landscape

Regardless of Inter Miami’s performance this season, the presence of Messi in MLS has undeniably brought significant attention to the league. The debate surrounding Inter Miami’s odds and their chances of winning the MLS Cup adds another dimension to the soccer betting landscape. As Schlosser mentioned, the discussions around the game, the league, and the season ahead have intensified, giving fans and bettors more to engage with.

Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami CF has not only elevated the team’s prospects in the MLS but has also brought about a surge in betting activity surrounding the league. While Inter Miami is currently favored to win the MLS Cup, the challenges posed by an aging roster and a demanding schedule may impact their campaign. Nevertheless, the presence of Messi and the betting frenzy surrounding his team underscore the growing popularity and excitement surrounding MLS.

Inter Miami CF

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