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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo breaking attendance records in MLS and Saudi Pro League but still trail League Two sides

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have had immediate impacts on their new respective clubs – but how have the fans reacted?

Messi made the move to the United States in the summer when his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expired.

Messi has helped Inter Miami's attendance figures rise dramatically


Messi has helped Inter Miami’s attendance figures rise dramaticallyCredit: getty

The 2022 World Cup winner decided to leave Europe behind and fulfil his dream of playing in the MLS, joining David Beckham’s outfit Inter Miami.

And his arrival has sparked a sizeable reaction from supporters with attendances rising across the country at football matches.

It has led to 2023 being the best-attended year in MLS history with 10,900,804 fans making their way through the turnstiles at games up and down the nation.

Of all the MLS sides, it was Inter Miami that saw their average attendance skyrocket.


It went from 12,637 to 17,698 – a 40 per cent increase and the biggest average growth in the MLS.

The next biggest increase was that of San Jose Earthquakes at 20.7 per cent – nearly half of Inter Miami’s rise this year.

MLS commissioner Don Garber wrote on social media: “History made! Our players delivered on the field, and fans turned out in record numbers.

“A massive THANK YOU to everyone who attended MLS matches this season.

Messimania has hit the United States and led to a massive increase in fans at the stadiums


Messimania has hit the United States and led to a massive increase in fans at the stadiumsCredit: Getty

“Your amazing support has elevated MLS to new heights! Here’s to even more unforgettable moments in the years to come.”

But while Messi-mania might have broken records in the MLS, Ronaldo is still playing in front of bigger crowds.

The Portuguese icon made the move to the Saudi Pro League after his contract at Manchester United was ripped up last year.

After signing for Al Nassr, Ronaldo’s popularity helped the club’s own attendance figures soar.

Ronaldo has had a similar impact in Saudi Arabia


Ronaldo has had a similar impact in Saudi ArabiaCredit: Getty

In the year before the five-time Ballon d’Or winner arrived in the Gulf state, Al Nassr’s average attendance was just 4,873, according to Transfermarkt.

Last season, with Ronaldo joining halfway through, that number shot up to 17,638 – astonishingly just 60 fans less than the average attendance at Inter Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium that Messi has helped bring in.

But Ronaldo fever is not going away in Saudi Arabia and Al Nassr attendances continue to rise, with the average number this season so far growing to 20,615.

While the rise in spectators has undoubtedly been fuelled by Ronaldo and Messi in Saudi Arabia and the United States, the figures are still extremely low.

While more fans are going to see Ronaldo, League Two sees similar numbers


While more fans are going to see Ronaldo, League Two sees similar numbersCredit: AFP

To put it into some context, League Two side Bradford City are pulling in an average of 17,922 this season – more than Inter Miami and Al Nassr’s figures.

Messi and Ronaldo might find themselves somewhat hamstrung, though, by their club’s stadium sizes.

Al Nassr play at the KSU Stadium, which has a capacity of 25,000, while the DRV PNK Stadium holds even less at 21,000.

But perhaps there is no excuse with Bradford’s ground holding just over 25,000, yet still managing big numbers despite sitting mid-table in League Two and hardly having the star power of two players with a combined 12 Ballon d’Ors between them.

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