By Mike Rice.
Messi-Mania is in full swing in Major League Soccer, with the Argentine World Cup winner announcing he plans to join Inter Miami this summer.
On the field, tickets are selling out fast for every game Inter Miami now has this season. Fans are beyond excited to see one of the greatest ever players in soccer playing in MLS.
Inter Miami have been lining this up for a while now, rumours have circulated repetitively since Messi told David Beckham: “Who knows, maybe in a few years you can give me a ring,” when Beckham was awarded the MLS Expansion spot in 2018.
The time looks to have arrived, and Messi is walking into a team that, it is fair to say, would have had sights on being a lot better by now.
Inter Miami have recently fired their head coach Phil Neville with the Florida side sitting bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference with 12 defeats in 17 games.
With his contract expired at Paris Saint-Germain he is ready to join from the start of the secondary transfer window in MLS, which opens on Wednesday, July 5.
Should Inter Miami get all the contract details ironed out in time, Messi could be eligible to make his debut for their trip to DC United to face Wayne Rooney’s side on July 8.
More likely, we may have to wait for the Leagues Cup to see Messi in the pink.
Inter Miami will host Liga MX side Cruz Azul in the newly formed Leagues Cup on July 21 which could see the tournament’s opening day feature a star the world will tune in to see.
While a lot of the reasons for Messi to join will be off the field, for himself as well as the club and the league, what will expectations be for the team on the pitch for the remainder of the season?
Sitting bottom of the East right now, the playoffs may seem a long way off, but with the new format ensuring nine of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference will progress, the gap isn’t too far.
Now, Inter Miami are six points adrift from the ninth-place play in game, with a game in hand over ninth-place Charlotte FC and DC United.
With an upgrade at head coach, with rumours of Tata Martino being lined up, this team will likely expect to ride the wave of Messi-Mania into the playoffs.
They have strikers who can finish and have traded Kamal Miller in the heart of the defence to make improvements there too.
The biggest issue this side has is the midfield. Gregore’s season-ending injury hit the team hard, while Jean Mota has also been ruled for an undetermined amount of time.
Benjamin Cremaschi and David Ruiz have both stepped up impressively, and Dixon Arroyo has been brought in from Emelec in Ecuador to add some experience. There is a lot of potential here, but it is hard to rely on such young players.
When you have the best player to ever play in the league, your chances immediately jump from what they have been, though Messi has a lot to turn around with this team.
This seems to be the place where we will see the beginning of the Messi experience.
For the top three teams in the competition, a route into the CONCACAF Champions Cup next season is an exciting opportunity for Inter Miami to continue growing their fanbase as well as for MLS to keep progressing with more eyes than ever before on it.
With Cruz Azul and Atlanta United in their way, reaching the knockout rounds won’t be a guarantee, though possible.
Leagues Cup organisers will be delighted to have Messi as part of their inaugural tournament as there had been questions about how teams would approach it.
I’m sure #Messi will be tuning in to see his new side in the @opencup kicking off shortly against Birmingham Legion.
Lot of pressure on these #InterMiami players to get the job done withmore eyes on this team now from around the world, especially having named a strong team
— Mike Rice (@MikeRice1983) June 8, 2023
Inter Miami has managed to reach the semi-finals of the tournament and have league leaders FC Cincinnati in their way.
It’s another route for Inter Miami to have CONCACAF Champions Cup football next season. They are just a game away from the Open Cup final which would be against either Houston Dynamo or Real Salt Lake.
With the semi-final being on August 23, there is plenty of time for a new coach and Messi to get adapted, we will see a very different side come August.
For Inter Miami, a cup win could be their biggest focus for whoever the new coach turns out to be.
Winning a trophy is a priority for all clubs, but for Inter Miami, they have built their franchise on being a destination for star players from world football. When you have David Beckham as an owner, and bringing in Lionel Messi, trophies are necessary.
Setting up next season to be successful will be key. The city provides them with a pull for players around the world, but Beckham and Co are looking to build a competitive side to continue challenging year on year.