August 14, 2023
Global soccer star Lionel Messi will be at Subaru Park in Chester on Tuesday night for a Leagues Cup match between the Philadelphia Union and Inter Miami CF.
Messi's gravity beyond the soccer world can be compared to Michael Jordan's transcendent status outside the boundaries of the NBA. The decorated attacker from Argentina is considered among the greatest players of all time and further cemented his legacy last year with his first World Cup title. Messi joined Major League Soccer in July, sparking a frenzy of interest in Inter Miami's road games.
Ticket prices for Tuesday night's match have soared on the secondary market. Face value of most tickets to the Union's earlier games in the Leagues Cup ranged from $30-80. For the game with Messi and Miami, many were selling for at least four times face value, with the cheapest deal on Ticketmaster for two standing room-only tickets listed at $347 apiece, plus fees, late Monday afternoon.
On StubHub, standing-room tickets were listed at $270 apiece earlier Monday afternoon, but by 6:30 p.m. no standing room tickets were for sale. The cheapest tickets were listed at $382. Seatgeek, the Union's secondary-market ticket partner, was selling standing-room tickets starting at $251 and the least expensive reserved seating was $296.
Most tickets around Subaru Park's seating chart on Monday ranged from $400 to more than $1,000, with some outliers listed as high as $10,225 on Ticketmaster and $4,500 on StubHub.
For two hours on Monday, the Union offered season ticket holders, who had purchased tickets to the Leagues Cup, chances to buy additional standing room tickets for $200 before making what was left available to the public.
Messi had an injury scare Monday when he tweaked his right ankle during a training session, but Inter Miami head coach Gerardo Martino downplayed its severity and said he expects Messi will be ready to take the field against the Union.
Tuesday's semifinal between the Union and Inter Miami was set up by both teams notching Leagues Cup victories on Friday. The 47-team tournament is comprised of clubs from the MLS and Mexico's Liga MX.
"We're talking about the best player of all time coming here in the semifinal with a trophy on the line, a spot in the Champions League on the line," Union head coach Jim Curtain said of the match. "So it's a big game. I know our fans are gonna' show up."
Curtain pleaded with Union fans who have tickets to the match not to sell them, despite the temptation of a windfall.
"Please don't sell your tickets, no matter how much money they're offering for them, please," said Curtain, adding he anticipates a loud environment and likely some celebrity appearances.
Messi, 36, had a storied career with FC Barcelona in Spain's La Liga, where his team won 10 titles, in addition to his national appearances with Argentina. Inter Miami, part-owned by retired English soccer legend David Beckham, signed Messi to a 2 1/2-year contract that has instantly lifted the club's prospects.
Messi has played five matches with Inter Miami, all in the Leagues Cup. In those games, Miami is undefeated and Messi has scored eight goals and tallied three assists.
For soccer fans in the Philadelphia area, Messi's appearance in Chester on Tuesday ranks among the sport's biggest moments since the late Brazilian star Pelé made a trio of appearances in Philadelphia in the 1970s.
Pelé's first appearance in Philly came in 1973, when his Brazilian team Santos played an exhibition against Germany's Arminia Bielefeld at JFK Stadium. Santos cruised to a 5-0 victory and Pele recorded a goal and an assist.
"(Pelé) was the man the crowd wanted to see in action," sports reporter David Sims wrote for the Inquirer at the time. "When he first touched the ball, an electric charge was set off in the audience in anxious anticipation."
Two summers later, Pelé joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, but he didn't play in a match against the Philadelphia Atoms at Veterans Stadium. The game still attracted one of the Atoms' biggest crowds of the year and a huge media presence to cover Pelé's return. He would go on to play in two additional games in Philadelphia in 1976.
Tuesday night's Union-Inter Miami game will be broadcast on Apple TV+ and radio coverage will be available on 97.5 The Fanatic.