Jul 21, 2023; Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA; Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) reacts after scoring a goal against Cruz Azul during the second half at DRV PNK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most intriguing stories in sports media this year has been the success of MLS Season Pass on Apple TV. The league and the streamer made a big bet on each other in the first of its kind deal where all MLS matches would be available on Apple – not just around the country, but around the world. That global strategy became truly apparent when Apple, Adidas, and MLS came together to sign Lionel Messi to Inter Miami in a mammoth acquisition.

Since Messi came to Inter Miami, he’s been as brilliant as expected, scoring 8 goals in just 5 games in the Leagues Cup. He’s carried Miami, who sit in last place in the MLS Standings, all the way to the semifinals of the inaugural tournament in what has been a dream come true for the league. While MLS has added aging stars in the past, none look set to have the immediate impact that Messi has, less than a year after winning the World Cup with Argentina and being named player of the tournament.

Of course, his impact off the pitch has been just as substantial. It’s not an overstatement to suggest that the success of MLS Season Pass hinges on Messi attracting subscribers to make it work. Although MLS and Apple have been opaque as to just what the actual numbers are in terms of subscriptions, a couple of clues have begun to emerge. One more has been revealed thanks to Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas, who tweeted this week that Season Pass subs have more than doubled in the short time since Messi’s arrival.

Of course, since this is MLS and Apple we’re talking about, we have no real context for those numbers. Does it include those packages that were awarded to MLS season ticket holders? Or does it not? Has it crossed 1 million subs? Or has it not? Has Season Pass reached the threshold to share revenue with MLS? Or not? Unless MLS and Apple suddenly choose the path of transparency, we may not know.

However, whatever the growth is, the success of Messi is obvious. That isn’t just good news for Apple and MLS, it’s good news for Messi himself! The GOAT is reportedly going to earn a share of any new subscriptions for MLS Season Pass.

Equally as important is Mas’ declaration that more than 50% of subscriptions come from Spanish language viewership. That’s another affirmation of Apple’s global play through Season Pass as the number of international subscribers may far surpass anything domestically. It would surely be ironic if after all the years of MLS seeing its TV viewership languish behind the Premier League in the USA that they may finally break through with a global audience. With Neymar the latest superstar linked to the league, it could be only the beginning.