Will Lionel Messi dominate MLS as odds suggest?

Will Inter Miami's Lionel Messi Dominate MLS?

The GOAT is coming to North America after Inter Miami signed Lionel Messi. The Barcelona legend and 2022 World Cup Winner officially joined David Beckham's MLS franchise in Miami. 

And the news is sending shockwaves through the sport and having a massive financial impact on the club. 

But Messi's impact on the fortunes of Inter Miami goes beyond sales and follower counts. Just the thought of Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami has pushed the Heron's championship odds way up.

Before Inter Miami signed Messi, their odds to win the MLS Cup were at +15000. But now, those odds have shrunk to +1800. And Miami is currently last in the East and seven points out of a playoff spot. Is it fair to expect Messi to dominate the North American game this much?

Odds To Win MLS Cup
FC Cincinnati+462
Nashville SC+675
Philadelphia Union+700
New England Revolution+1350
St. Louis City SC+1375
Seattle Sounders+1800
Inter Miami+1800
Atlanta United+2000
Orlando City SC+2775

Odds as of June 11

The expectation is that Messi will absolutely destroy the MLS. Like, mop the floor with any defender that dares get in his way. It's going to be a blood bath in Florida, apparently. But is that fair?

Are We Expecting Too Much From Messi?

I'm risking that you won't read the rest of this, but the answer is yes. Yes it's fair. I know that Messi hasn't kicked a ball for his new team yet, but he's the GOAT for a reason.

You already know that the caliber of play (and specifically defending) in the MLS is not what it is on the other side of the Atlantic. The data suggests that we could see a 26% jump in Messi's effectiveness by jumping from the French league to the MLS. Excuse me?! Inter Miami's Lionel Messi is going to be better?!

Remember, this is the "Messiah". He scored 16 goals and added 16 assists for PSG in the French Ligue 1. He also put up 0.92 expected goals and expected assists (xG+xAG) per 90. Adding 26% to that would give Messi a 1.16 xG+xAG per 90. No MLS player is above 0.85 xG+xAG this season. 

Oddsmakers are so sure Messi is going to dominate the MLS that you can already get odds on the former Barça player to win the top scorer award this season at +4000. Without ever setting foot on a pitch (yet).

The data (which is all we have to go on) says we should expect big things from Messi.

Is It Fair?

But is it fair to expect Messi to just jump into the MLS and score an endless amount of goals and propel his team up the standings? Well, yeah. We've kind of seen it before.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic switched from Manchester United to the MLS in 2018. His impact was immediate scoring twice coming off the bench in his first game. He'd score 22 goals in 27 matches that year. He finished second in scoring that season. Though LA wouldn't make the playoffs, Zlatan was magnificent.

And with all due respect to Ibra, he's not Lionel Messi. Zlatan never scored more than 38 goals in a league campaign. Messi hit 40 or more three times in his career.

Having Inter Miami's odds to win the MLS Cup jump as they did was no fluke. And it's fair to expect Messi to dominate the North American game. He's been dominating the European game for decades. 

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