Feb 15, 2024; Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA; Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) controls the ball against the Newell’s Old Boys in the second half at DRV PNK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 Major League Soccer (MLS) season kicks off on Wednesday night and there’s not shortage of buzz surrounding the league.

In addition to this marking the second year of MLS’ groundbreaking deal with Apple, it will also be international superstar Lionel Messi’s first full season as a member of Inter Miami.

But while most of MLS’ momentum over the course of the past year could be attributed to the arrival of Messi, the league’s commissioner has taken somewhat of a curious stance regarding its biggest star. Speaking to the Sports Business Journal last week, Don Garber called for media members to pay attention to more than just the Argentina native, and made a curious comparison while doing so.

“It’s easy and somewhat lazy for reporters to just write about Messi — it’s like writing about Taylor Swift,” Garber said. “There’s so much more here that I think people need to recognize.”

While Garber is obviously responsible for the entire league and not just Inter Miami or Messi, at this point, that might be a distinction without much of a difference. And ultimately, MLS should be welcoming as much mainstream coverage as it can get, whether it focuses on Messi or not.

Intentionally or not, Garber’s comparison of Messi and Swift is actually a good one, as they are both two of the most famous people in the world. But as we saw over the course of the past six months, the NFL welcomed the extra attention that Swift’s relationship with Travis Kelce brought, as you never heard Roger Goodell telling reporters, “Well, actually, you guys should be focusing more on the Detroit Lions instead.”

Not that it would have mattered anyways, as the media would have continued to focus on Swift — just as the soccer media will continue to prioritize Messi. In fact, according to SBJ, Gannett and the USA Today Network has taken a page out of the Los Angeles Times‘ Super Bowl playbook for Swift by hiring a reporter (Safid Deen) to exclusively cover Messi moving forward.

Nevertheless, Garber’s comments seem to paint the picture of a commissioner grappling with how much his league’s recent success is all attributed to a single player.

“Messi helped take this league to new heights and gave us momentum on a trajectory that was established in the years leading up to building a league that Messi would want to be a part of,” he said.

That might be the case, but there’s also a reason why the league was willing to facilitate an unprecedented contract to bring him to Miami. And while the league will eventually need more than just the 36-year-0ld Messi to continue on its current trajectory, it’s clearly not in that position yet.

If it was, it wouldn’t need its commissioner to say so.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.