Sportsbooks Still Getting the Messi Bump for Major League Soccer Betting Markets

Inter Miami games are the most-bet MLS matches at BetMGM — “they compare to action we see on Premier League games.”

Sports Betting Journalist
May 14, 2024 • 14:43 ET • 3 min read
Lionel Messi Inter Miami MLS
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The arrival of superstar Lionel Messi in North America sent action on Major League Soccer skyrocketing at U.S. sports betting sites — and Year Two of Messi-mania has been more of the same. 

Inter Miami and Messi are having a solid campaign thus far in the MLS season, notching a fifth consecutive win on Saturday against CF Montréal

While his side was victorious, Messi, an eight-time Ballon d'Or winner, was denied an assist or goal for the first time in his nine appearances this season.

That could have been costly for bettors, as they have loved to back Messi at regulated sports betting sites during his North American odyssey. Several operators told Covers recently that they have seen significant increases in MLS-related handle associated with the Argentinian’s arrival on the scene. 

“I have been in this business over 21 years, and I haven’t seen another example of a player going to a newer league that isn’t considered amongst the top leagues in the world, have such a seismic impact on the betting action, if not the league itself,” bet365 Trading Leader Aron Wattleworth said in a recap of the 2023 MLS season. “Action on Inter Miami was exponentially massive compared to prior action often by a thousandfold. Messi performance markets often took more than the whole game action for [full time] result and other match markets.”

The Messi obsession has not died down, either. 

“We continue to see interest in the MLS from bettors driven by Messi,” BetMGM’s John Ewing said in an email. 

Inter Miami games are the most-bet MLS matches at BetMGM, Ewing added — “they compare to action we see on Premier League games.”

Odds reflect that Inter Miami love from bettors, as the team opened at +200 to win the MLS this year and is now +185 at BetMGM. The team has drawn the most bets (23.7%) and money (19.6%) of any squad to claim the league title.

Meanwhile, Messi to score anytime during a game “continues to be the most popular player prop,” Ewing said. 

Doubling up

At DraftKings Sportsbook, the Messi and Inter Miami favoritism is even more pronounced.

The Boston-based bookmaker said Inter Miami has attracted 69% of the money and 75% of the bets on the MLS Cup winner. The Columbus Crew is a distant second with 5% of handle and 4% of bets.

Messi has also accounted for 58% of the money and 52% of the bets on top goalscorer this season. Teammate Luis Suarez is the second-most popular choice, with 12% of handle and 17% of bets, DraftKings said.

DraftKings added that its MLS markets have seen 2.2 times the handle and more than 2.3 times the bets year-over-year since Messi joined the league. His squad, Inter Miami, is the most-bet MLS team and seventh-most-bet soccer team overall by handle at DK. 

Moreover, Messi the player is the most-bet by total wagering, DraftKings said, and second-most bet by number of bets behind only Manchester City’s Erling Braut Haaland. 

The Messi interest has shown staying power, as DraftKings noted its most-bet game by the number of bets was Inter Miami’s game against Real Salt Lake on Feb. 21 of this year. 

Big fans

Messi is a factor at another DraftKings competitor as well, although that interest has waxed and waned a bit.

"We saw that betting activity on Inter Miami games spiked during Messi’s first few Inter Miami games last season," FanDuel told Covers in an email. "While it tapered off toward the end of last season, it continued to outpace wagering on other MLS games. To-date this season, betting on Inter Miami games has continued around the volumes we saw at the end of last season, with more betting activity on Inter Miami than other MLS teams."

bet365's Wattleworth said Messi and Inter Miami remain a popular play for punters, not just because of Messi, but also because of the addition of Suarez.

The Uruguayan star takes plenty of action to score any given game in his own right at the U.K.-based bookmaker, which can inflate the odds for Messi to tally one. bet365 sees more "Dutching" on Inter games as well, or wagering on both Messi and Suarez to score anytime, first, or last. That makes sense given the duo have 21 of Miami's 35 goals thus far in the MLS season.

"The Inter Miami squad is one that now boasts numerous high-profile players from other leagues, like last year’s additions of Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, and the aforementioned Suarez, as well as some other lesser known Internationals," Wattleworth said in an emailed statement. "Although there isn’t the same exponential action on Messi alone as there was when he first arrived, Miami is the most popular bet Team, and Messi the most popular bet player in the MLS."

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