In September of 2021, NASA launched a spaceship about the size of a vending machine out into space. The project’s acronym, DART, had a clever double meaning. In addition to its full nomenclature, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, the “dart” of it all was very much meant to score a direct hit on a rather tiny target.

The DART we hucked up into our night sky on that late summer evening was meant to head out into space and make contact with the smaller of two asteroids, Dimorphos (orbiting Didymos), and basically punch it hard enough to meaningfully shift its orbit. Turns out that by putting the exact right object in the exact right spot… You can change the arc of an entire galaxy.

A right person in the right spot impacting an entire galaxy changed the arc of a young Mike Olson, and thousands of other kids of that era. That’s the moment that this guy named Edson showed up and showed us all a funny game of kickball in the United States that we’d heard of and always regarded somewhat suspiciously. But Edson… Oh, Edson. The way he played changed everything.

If Edson is less than familiar, you may know him better by his nickname, Pelé…

In reality, when Pelé brought his act to the United States and the New York Cosmos in the mid-70’s, he was arguably already the most popular and recognizable athlete on the planet. He’d already made his name and star as a first-of-his-kind in so many ways in the sport, transcending age, race, poverty, and language gaps by playing the sport he first described as the “beautiful game” so beautifully that no one could disagree.

He was one of the first elite international superstars just as our media capabilities gave us the ability to focus in on any corner of the globe. And boy, did Pele’s star shine. So much so, that “soccer” finally took hold in the sparest corners of the United States, inching its way into the hearts of many for decades.

Along those decades, the “Major League” version of the sport saw many global stars take their turn as the “new draw” for American fans to keep coming out and seeing professional soccer continue to take root. Bobby Moore, Carlos Alberto, Johann Cruyff, and others of Pelé’s generation finalized their careers in the States, all the way up to the last decade plus of stars like Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, and the too-pretty-for-his-own-good bender, David Beckham. Fans numbers would swell to some degree when a recognizable name came through town, but never with the impact of someone like the original, Edson, er, Pelé himself.

No one until now, that is.

A few weeks ago, a famous name in a pink jersey came back across the North American football landscape. A shooting star ending his arc in the evening skies of Miami. Making things a little bit messy. No, just maybe a lot Messi. One of the games all-time greats brings the gravity of a star to the MLS, and the game may have finally seen another seismic change. How great an All-Time great? See the poetry in these motions…

And while it’s great to see the best moments of anyone’s career, that star is surely fading as Lionel Messi comes to America, right? Not much gas left in that tank? You, uh… might want to guess again…

In his eight appearances with Inter Miami, Leo Messi has:

  • scored 10 goals
  • notched three assists
  • scored in every contest
  • won the Leagues Cup
  • sold more Inter Miami merch on Fanatics than the team did combined ALL OF LAST SEASON

Don’t sleep on that last bit, as the league itself surely isn’t, expressing their own disbelief at just how impactful early Messi has been both on and off the field. Ticket prices for the games Inter Miami visits town are shooting through the roof, as are season ticket reservations and viewership on platforms like Apple TV, who just so happens to own MLS season ticket viewing, as well as a couple of sweet Messi documentaries on the side. The only way this deal gets any sweeter for Apple is if Ted Lasso somehow ends up with a bench coaching gig at Miami in the offseasons. This property is… HOT.

Here’s the craziest part. Leo still hasn’t played his first official MLS contest as of yet, with that coming Saturday of this weekend to a ton of fanfare. All his games leading to now have simply been service of that midseason cup discussed above.

And while no one is expecting futbol to replace football anytime soon in the priorities of American sports viewership, even you felt that shift a little bit, didn’t you, Colorado sports fan? While Messi’s squad won’t be making a trip to Colorado this season, you probably went and checked when you heard he was joining the league, didn’t you? Pink suddenly looks a more appealing color to be seen in these days, huh? If Messi brought nothing more than hundreds of thousands more eyeballs back to the beautiful game, then Bien Hecho, Leo.


Mike Olson is a weekly columnist for DNVR. The Colorado State University alum was born and raised in Fort Collins and has been writing about Denver sports for the last decade-plus. After over a decade away, he is thrilled to be back in and around Colorado. No place like home.