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Attendance at FC Dallas game vs Lionel Messi Inter Miami at Cotton Bowl

MLS is banking on Messi's impact in the U.S. but his first game at the Cotton Bowl had low attendance.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is betting big on Lionel Messi's impact on soccer in the U.S. They've gone so far as to create an unprecedented preseason schedule just to showcase their newest, most exciting asset. And why wouldn't they? Their success is tied to his success.

Messi's club, Inter Miami, has been scheduled to play a grueling seven-match schedule, traveling over 23,000 miles in just one month. The first match took place in El Salvador against the national team, resulting in a 0-0 draw.

The team's first U.S.-based match was held at the Cotton Bowl, which has a capacity of 92,100, significantly larger than their usual home stadium. This move was calculated, as Messi's presence at a Leagues Cup match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco brought in $3 million in economic impact for the city.

However, the attendance at the Cotton Bowl for Monday's match was much lower than expected, with only 32,211 spectators in a stadium that can hold over 90,000. The cold and rainy weather, along with the 5 p.m. Monday scheduling, likely played a role in the low turnout.

Comparatively, FC Dallas' first match at the Cotton Bowl in 1995 drew a crowd of 27,779, and Toyota Stadium sold out all 20,500 seats for Messi's previous game. The potential for a full house at the Cotton Bowl was there, but the MLS missed the mark this time.

Overall, MLS is taking a big bet on Messi's impact, but it seems like there are still some kinks to work out in terms of scheduling and venue selection.

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