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When news broke this summer that Lionel Messi was joining Inter Miami, LAFC season-ticket holder Jordan Ekeroth listed his two seats for the September game on the secondary market.

Ekeroth, 32, has been a soccer fan for years and was in “disbelief” when he heard Messi would be playing Major League Soccer. But he knew he’d be out of town when Messi and Inter Miami came to Los Angeles. He’d heard tickets were being listed — and sold — for much higher prices than normal, so he figured he’d shoot his shot.

He listed the two tickets he has with his partner for $650 each on Ticketmaster, which is built into his season-ticket-holder app, and waited. After Messi scored two goals in the first 20 minutes of his first career start for the club last month, the tickets sold.

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“To my shock, they did end up selling for $650 each,” said Ekeroth, a Silver Lake resident who is in his second year as a LAFC season-ticket holder. Together, the two resold seats more than pay for the cost of one of his tickets for the entire season.

This Sunday, Messi mania will be on full display in Los Angeles.

Tickets on StubHub were selling for at least $558 on Friday afternoon, up from $450 on Wednesday. One pair of seats close to the field that had been listed Thursday at more than $36,000 was sold by Friday. Another pair of seats, not quite as good, was available for $96,000 on Friday. (A ticket to an average game typically costs $95.)

LAFC has warned attendees that parking and traffic around BMO Stadium will be “severely impacted” and encouraged people to come early and take public transit or use ride-hailing services.

Although fans are making sizable profits selling their tickets on the secondary market, Messi’s arrival Sunday won’t be the financial windfall for LAFC that it will be for other MLS teams.

More than 85% of the 22,500 seats at BMO Stadium have been sold to season-ticket holders, one of the highest percentages in the league, with an average game producing a gate revenue of about $2.025 million.

The team courted controversy last year when it notified hundreds of season-ticket holders that they would not be able to renew their seats because they sold a “substantial portion” of their tickets on the secondary market. Many of those season-ticket holders said they did not feel safe going to games during the pandemic.

The team has increased inventory slightly for the Inter Miami game, selling standing-room tickets for more than $300 apiece and squeezing people into spaces not normally used for seating. Those tickets, which numbered in the hundreds, sold out in a matter of minutes.

This being Hollywood, LAFC co-President Larry Freedman said, the team typically holds back some tickets for VIP requests, but demand has far exceeded availability for Messi’s visit.

“If the president of the United States rings up and says, ‘I happen to be in town,’ we want to be able to accommodate that,” Freedman said.

“With this match, in particular, we knew that the requests would come in a tidal-wave-like fashion,” he said. “I won’t name any names, but yes, there have been some people we’ve not been in a position to take care of.”

Freedman said he’s also heard from people who have repeatedly declined previous invitations to games, only to find space in their calendars to see Messi.

“They all start something like, ‘Hey, it’s been a while. But I’m free on Sept. 3,’” Freedman said of the messages and emails. “It’s been remarkable the number of people who just happen to turn up in the last six weeks, saying, ‘Oh, hey, you invited me two years ago. I’m available on Sunday. Anything special going on?’”

Messi’s entry into the MLS has galvanized not just ticket sales but interest in the MLS.

Inter Miami’s Instagram following was about 1 million before Messi joined the team. Now, the club has 14.7 million followers.

Since Messi announced he’d be joining Inter Miami in June, average ticket prices for a game have increased by more than five times to $161, nearly 64% above the league average, according to StubHub. The match between Inter Miami and LAFC on Sunday is the second-highest-selling MLS game of the season, StubHub said, and the third-highest-selling game since 2018.

“As we’ve seen with other superstar athletes, Messi’s addition to Inter Miami is driving incredible demand and sales not just for the team at home but when they’re on the road,” StubHub spokesperson Adam Budelli said in a statement. “L.A. fans have seen their share of sports stars, but Messi is one of a kind.”

In many ways, the demand to see Messi play is becoming a larger cultural phenomenon.

“It’s not only MLS fans or soccer fans,” said Stephen Shapiro, a professor of sport and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina.

“People who might be casual fans or people who might have heard of Messi have an interest in seeing him. The combination of that and how good he’s been playing … all of that has created a demand that probably is more than we’ve seen in MLS since its inception,” Shapiro said.

Die-hard LAFC fans aren’t necessarily taking kindly to the idea of Messi fans taking the resold seats of season-ticket holders. Pride Republic, the LGBTQ+ supporters group for LAFC, reminded fans that “no other club or national team jerseys” should be worn in the north end of the stadium, where the supporters’ group cheers.

Ekeroth, the season-ticket holder, also said Messi’s arrival in L.A. was complicated, potentially bringing out people interested in the celebrity spectacle more than in soccer.

“I don’t feel any sort of a guarantee that the person who is going to be sitting in my seats is some big soccer fan, much less that they’re an LAFC fan,” he said.

Still, Ekeroth said, “just the idea that someone of Messi’s caliber would be coming was really, really exciting because it can do nothing but raise the profile of soccer in the United States and make more people interested. Not just because Messi is so great but because people follow him, [it] can bring attention to some amazing players and teams that make up the rest of the sport in the United States.”

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