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Owen Wilson compares Lionel Messi mania to Pele’s shock arrival in US in 1975: ‘Maybe even bigger’

Lionel Messi fever swept Los Angeles on Sunday night when Inter Miami CF’s last game was played on the soccer field against LAFC.

LAFC are already seeing big attendances at their games (11th in MLS averaging 22,102 spectators) but the BMO stadium was packed as Messi and Inter Miami CF brought arguably America’s greatest sporting spectacle to the City of Angels.

Actor and LAFC fan Owen Wilson loves how exciting Messi’s arrival to Major League Soccer was, which is why he was among the many stars who dropped by to see him in action. It reminds Wilson of another global soccer star who made the leap to the United States to continue his glittering soccer career.

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Lionel Messi waves to the crowd

Inter Miami CF number 10 Lionel Messi waves to fans after a tie during a game between Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium on August 30, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“I remember when Pele played for them when I was a kid it was a big deal [New York] Cosmos, and with Messi it feels that way again, just maybe even bigger,” Wilson told Fox News Digital.

Similar to Messi when he signed his contract with Inter Miami CF, Pelé shocked the whole world when he decided to play for the New York Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League in 1975 on a three-year, $7 million contract.

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Pelé’s arrival prompted the Cosmos to move their games from a small Randall’s Island Stadium to Giants Stadium because many fans wanted to see him in person. The Cosmos eventually set a North American attendance record of 77,691 on its debut, which was also watched by a record 10 million people.

Messi’s arrival in the US was a whirlwind event, and all in a positive way for MLS. Inter Miami CF is now the fourth most followed sports team in the US on Instagram with 12 million followers – 11 million of whom came after Messi’s arrival. Stars like LeBron James, Kim Kardashian and many more have turned up in Miami to see Messi up close.

“I think it’s already working for MLS,” the Wedding Crashers star said of Messi’s impact on the league. “You can see the excitement.

Lionel Messi runs on the soccer field

Inter Miami CF number 10 Lionel Messi controls the ball in the first half during a game between Inter Miami CF and Los Angeles Football Club at BMO Stadium on September 3, 2023 in Los Angeles. (Harry How/Getty Images)

“I had a friend in Dallas who went to the games. Just across the country. Even my mum is really excited about it now.”

Messi’s impact for Inter Miami CF was also felt as soon as he stepped onto the pitch. In his very first game against Cruz Azul, Messi gave Miami a 2-1 overtime win with a beautifully placed second-half free-kick.

He then scored two goals in his second game against Atlanta United. In the 10 games he played prior to the LAFC clash, Messi has scored in eight of them.

Moreover, Messi’s move to Inter Miami CF immediately changed their careers as they were bottom of the MLS regular season ahead of the League Cup. They then went on to win the Leagues Cup and the US Open Cup on penalties.

Lionel Messi takes to the field

Inter Miami CF number 10 Lionel Messi looks on before a match between Inter Miami CF and Los Angeles Football Club at BMO Stadium on September 3, 2023 in Los Angeles. (Harry How/Getty Images)

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‘Messi mania’ will continue to be rampant among sports fans across the US and stars like Wilson will continue to show up at stadiums knowing they are witnessing history with every goal and can help Messi pile on in his early MLS career .

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