CHICAGO — The biggest story in Major League Soccer in 2023 concerns the greatest player in the world joining its Miami franchise, and he’s going to make a stop in Chicago.
Lionel Messi’s appearance at Soldier Field on Wednesday, October 4 with Inter Miami CF has already created plenty of buzz – and ticket sales – for Chicago Fire FC.
“You probably could not have scripted his arrival any better, right,” said Fire president of business operations David Baldwin of Messi. “He’s scored in most of the games, he’s had some game-winning assists. It’s been really exciting for the league as a whole.”
Especially for the Fire, who will play arguably their most anticipated regular season match in franchise history on October 4 as the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner for world player of the year comes to Chicago.
Naturally, the sales for this match have been quite brisk as the club has opened the upper deck for the first time since returning to Soldier Field three years ago.
“We’re tracking towards selling out. It will most likely be the highest-grossing match in MLS history,” said Baldwin. “We are just a hair under 55,000 seats sold and expect to sell through the rest here in the next handful of weeks.”
It’s a unique situation for Baldwin, who is in his first year with the Fire, since the demand for the October 4 game is so much higher than other contests at Soldier Field this season. The club has increased the pricing due to the market demand far above what supporters would see for other contests.
As of Tuesday on Ticketmaster, which is where the Fire sells seats, the cheapest single ticket, either verified resale or from the club itself before fees, is $196 with the highest selling for $800. On the secondary market, the cheapest single ticket on StubHub before fees is $176 while SeatGeek has their lowest price seat at $169 as of September 12.
“What we learned quickly is that a lot of the tickets were being purchased by ticket resellers or by ticket bots, and they would go buy seats really inexpensively and then quickly flip them back on the open market at a much higher price,” said Baldwin. “We did adjust our pricing to reflect what you’re seeing across the market as a whole. For the most part, our seats are always lower than what they are on the secondary market, so if you were to go on our Ticketmaster site, we traditionally have the lowest prices across the board.
“That being said, it’s obviously at a higher price than a normal match because Messi is arguably the greatest player of all time and even at this stage of his career is having a huge impact on the game, and there is a real demand around this match, having sold over 50,000 seats already, there’s a lot of people who want to come out and watch.”
Season ticket holders were able to retain their seats at the original price while the club also created packages for fans to buy tickets to the Inter Miami CF match along with a few remaining for the rest of the season.
It is a significant increase in ticket prices, with the lowest single ticket for Fire’s next game at home against New England on September 23 at Soldier Field, which is being sold by the club and not for resale, starting at $27.
“It’s not in an attempt for us to over-monetize this match, but if we don’t price them appropriately, other people will come buy them and resell them at higher prices,” said Baldwin.
This, of course, is just one match of many for the club in 2023, but Baldwin hopes the impact could extend beyond October 4. Remember, the Fire have only been back at Soldier Field since 2020 and didn’t have fans back until 2021, so the Messi match does allow the club to introduce new fans to the gameday experience.
“I think that’s one of the great things about this match is hopefully it’s going to take a lot of the casual observers and help transform them into soccer fans, and then take casual soccer fans and hopefully over time transform them into Chicago Fire fans,” said Baldwin. “We know there’s a lot of people that are going to come to cheer for Messi and we hope that, over time, they’re going to learn to cheer for the Chicago Fire.
“They’re going to have a great time at the match and we know that there will be a lot of individuals who are coming out for the first time to Soldier Field to watch the Fire play Messi and hopefully next year they’ll come out to a couple of matches to cheer us on.”
Certainly, a few will be on hand on October 4, ready to pay a high price to see one of the greatest players in the history of soccer at Soldier Field.