ST. LOUIS – Soccer legend Lionel Messi will soon embark on the world of Major League Soccer with Inter Miami.
Messi announced his big career decision earlier this week, one that has many American soccer fans scrambling to find the first date he might be coming to a pitch near them.
St. Louis CITY SC will host Inter Miami on July 15 at CITYPARK. The prospect of Messi competing in St. Louis adds to the excitement of CITY SC’s inaugural season. But will it happen?
Entering the weekend, Inter Miami has not yet disclosed a potential timeline for how soon Messi might take action. Messi is under contract with Paris Saint-Germain of Ligue 1 through June 30. After that, he will likely need some time to get accustomed to the MLS soccer scene and Miami’s playbook.
So between the time his current contract ends to Inter Miami’s match in St. Louis, Messi has around two weeks to get in shape for CITY SC. That doesn’t seem like too tall of an order conditioning wise, but there’s possibly a catch.
Messi is an enormous draw pretty much anywhere he plays around the globe. With more than 800 goals, 17 years of experience and last year’s World Cup title under his belt, he is widely considered one of the most accomplished athletes in professional soccer history.
Because of that, Inter Miami likely wants Messi to debut in a scenario where they can best maximize it for the team and ideally MLS as a whole. It would make the most sense to debut in a home game setting.
The franchise is reportedly exploring the possibility of games at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the NFL Miami Dolphins, to see if they can play games around potential crowds of 65,000-plus fans compared to their usual 18,000 capacity.
With that in mind, Inter Miami has just two home games on schedule between Messi’s international contract ending and the St. Louis match. Those two games (July 1 and July 4) would require pretty speedy turnarounds. Miami will also play a road game in Washington D.C. on July 8, exactly one week before its first clash with CITY SC.
CBS Sports lists July 8 as the earliest possible date Messi could make his MLS debut “if everything breaks correctly,” but notes Messi might need a little more time to settle into his new home. Soccer hub Pundit Feed also agrees that July 8 is a possibility, but maybe not the most optimal. Other possible debut games listed, included July 19 at the MLS All-Star Game on July 21 in a Leagues Cup match against Cruz Azul.
After that, Miami has nearly a month-long break before its next MLS regular season game. That would be a home matchup on August 20 against Charlotte FC. Though it would be a rather lengthy wait, this date would make lots of sense. It give the 35-year-old Messi ample time to rest after a long European season, allow Miami to plan for massive crowds and give the MLS time to contemplate changes to its broadcast schedule around Messi.
Another factor worth considering is that Miami currently sits last place in the Eastern Conference with just 15 points (5-11-0 record) with nearly half of its regular season complete. They are only six points away from the next closest possible playoff spot, so could move within striking distance quickly.
Would a possible playoff push motivate them to try and insert Messi into the lineup earlier or would it make sense to ease into what’s been a tough season? If the first of those is true, it could certainly help his chances of playing in St. Louis next month.
For those hoping to attend July 15, whether Messi takes the pitch or not, these are the cheapest tickets available on the market. Keep in mind, most of these are for general admission costs and likely include extra fees.
- TicketSmarter: $323
- VividSeats: $268
- SeatGeek: $390
- TicketMaster: $320
- StubHub: $252
- TickPick (no fees): $329
FOX 2 will update if Inter Miami or the MLS release a plan for Messi’s debut that could impact whether or not he plays in St. Louis. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, CITY SC hosts LA Galaxy on Sunday for a noon CT match at CITYPARK. For the first time in history, fans can watch St. Louis CITY SC on FOX 2.