Lionel Messi added yet another accolade to his decorated career on Monday, when he won his eighth Ballon d’Or title in Paris.
The award comes after Messi lifted the World Cup with Argentina almost a year ago and continues a wild year for the star. He won the Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain in June before joining MLS’ Inter Miami to much fanfare in July. He has since helped the club lift their first title — the Leagues Cup — in August, as well as draw new eyeballs to the team and the league as a whole.
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Kevin de Bruyne, Erling Haaland, and Kylian Mbappe were finalists for the award.
The Ballon d’Or ceremony will be treated as the latest feather in MLS’ cap in its Messi era. The league had several representatives on site at the Theatre du Chatelet to see Messi accept the award, including commissioner Don Garber and Inter Miami co-owners David Beckham and Jorge Mas, with Beckham handing Messi the award. All are no doubt hoping Messi’s presence in Miami and continued prominence will boost the league’s profile, as well as the sport’s popularity in the U.S. ahead of the 2026 World Cup.
Messi’s oversized impact has already been felt in the U.S., where he causes a spectacle everywhere he goes. Fans and stars alike have flocked to his matches, and nearly every public move he made in his first few days in South Florida was heavily documented.
Messi mania has translated into tangible returns for MLS and new broadcast partner Apple, which saw around 110,000 subscribe to MLS Season Pass on the day of Messi’s Miami debut. Subscriptions for the Apple TV+ service rose 1,690% in the first month and change of Miami’s MLS stint. Miami is now also amongst the top five most followed American sports teams on Instagram and currently boasts more than 15 million followers.
The hope for those involved in Messi’s arrival is that he will leave a lasting legacy on American soccer, much like Beckham did when he joined the LA Galaxy in 2007. Many attribute Beckham’s stay in the states with increasing MLS’ reputation both domestically and abroad and came just as soccer’s popularity grew in the United States. As the sport continues to develop a foothold in the crowded American sports landscape, Messi’s MLS residency comes at an important moment with the country preparing to host the 2026 World Cup, a moment that could also boost soccer’s reputation stateside.
Additionally at Monday’s ceremony, Spain’s Aitana Bonmati picked up the women’s Ballon d’Or after lifting the Women’s World Cup over the summer. Jude Bellingham, Emiliano Martinez, and Haaland also took home awards designated for young players, goalkeepers, and forwards, respectively.