But a key piece has been missing from the saga: hooliganism.
The world's more fútbol-attuned nations are no strangers to soccer hooligans — the sometimes violent, disorderly spectators known for their aggressive behavior born out of passion for their teams. The British pioneered the booze-soaked, soccer-fueled mania as far back as 1885 when fans chucked stones and spat at players after a match between Preston North End and Aston Villa. Nowadays, England boasts a laundry list of "hooligan firms" including the Hull City Psychos, the Chelsea Headhunters, and the Naughty Forty.
clashed in the streets, fighting and throwing bar stools at each other while bystanders recorded the bedlam and possibly questioned the fate of humanity.
In one of the most horrific outbreaks of soccer-related violence, more than 70 people were killed in a 2012 fan attack following a match between rival clubs of the Egyptian Premier League. Al Masry fans stormed the stands in Port Said with machetes, bottles, knives, and clubs after beating Al Ahly of Cairo in a come-from-behind win.
Hooliganism extends to Latin American and South American leagues, where hooligan groups known as barras bravas often go to irrational lengths to support their squad. In Messi's home country of Argentina, the groups have a century-old history, with some barras developing reputations for attacking rival fans. In 2013, with an eye toward preserving peace, the Argentine Football Association banned visiting fans from attending pro soccer matches.
While Major League Soccer fandom has not reached the distinction of machete-wielding violence quite yet, we're off to a decent start.
On Sunday, August 6, stateside soccer buffs got a small taste of hooliganism when a video captured fans, including one in an Argentina Messi jersey, brawling in the concourse during the Leagues Cup match between Inter Miami and FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium.
Dallas vs Inter Miami 🇺🇸👊 pic.twitter.com/zdcYs4DLQs— Football Fights (@footbalIfights) August 7, 2023
The stout fan in the Messi jersey is seen throwing a series of balls-to-the-wall haymakers, apparently battling two men while a woman in a white shirt and black shorts swings in his corner. He then takes the fight to the ground by grabbing the leg of one of his opponents and body-slamming him, causing the unfortunate fellow to lose his bucket hat.
Most of the windmill punches miss their target, which is probably for the better given the ferocity of the swings. Some of the onlookers appear strangely unfazed by the fight as they hold their phones out to record the mayhem next to a giant Heineken beer sign.
At this point, it's unclear what triggered the fight, who initiated the violence, or who among the brawlers deserves the honor of being declared a true hooligan.
In any event, online observers were thrilled to see Americans learning proper soccer etiquette.
"Happy to see English footy culture making its way to America," a commenter wrote on the platform formerly known as Twitter.
One user was shocked hooligan culture had finally infiltrated American soccer while another thought it was a "performance art piece to get British people to watch the MLS." Some fans were disappointed by the performance because no chairs or large blunt objects had been thrown.
So glad Americans are finally getting the point of football. Can’t wait for Philadelphia fans to really get behind it because they will be Americas Millwall.— Senpai n mash (@dranny78) August 7, 2023
"Cultural appropriation," an incensed observer wrote, as another proclaimed, "So it begins..."
On the field, Messi scored two goals, leading Inter Miami to its fourth straight win since he joined the squad.
Can’t even do football violence very well those Yanks https://t.co/bfDCDBN0Gw— Warren S (@1wozza) August 7, 2023
Following the comeback victory Sunday, Messi and Inter Miami will face Charlotte FC in the quarterfinals of the Leagues Cup tournament on Friday, August 11, at DRV Pink Stadium. The soccer legend hopes to continue a hot start in which he has seven goals in his four matches.
Miami now has a supercharged soccer team on the pathway to championships, but as the team ascends the ranks, it remains to be seen whether fans will descend to choice displays of depravity and violence seen in global hooliganism.
C'mon South Florida. We're clearly capable.