Lionel Messi is playing his first full season in Major League Soccer with Inter Miami in 2024. In full, that means Messi will play in MLS, the US Open Cup, the Leagues Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions Cup. That sounds like a dream for broadcasters in the United States who have the rights to Inter Miami’s litany of games. That is especially true for MLS Season Pass from Apple, which saw its subscriptions increase when Messi arrived in the middle of last season.
Likewise, season tickets for Inter Miami have already sold out. Despite an uptick in prices for tickets, people want to see Inter Miami with Messi, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and the impending Luis Suarez. If construction stays on schedule, 2024 will see DRV PNK Stadium used in its last full season before the team moves to Miami Freedom Park. Still, the 21,000-seat stadium will expect a heavy dose of Lionel Messi.
Yet, last week, Messi reaffirmed his commitment to play for Argentina as his main focus. Last season, Messi missed games with Inter Miami to begin Argentina’s 2026 World Cup Qualifying campaign. Also, an injury sustained during those games with Argentina ruled him out for several matches with Inter Miami. Injuries will happen, particularly at Messi’s age. That will impact the number of games he plays with Inter Miami.
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Messi could play in a huge number of Inter Miami games in 2024
When talking about the number of games Messi could play in the coming season, let’s start with the maximum quantity possible. Inter Miami will enter the CONCACAF Champions Cup in the round of 16 as Leagues Cup champions. That could warrant seven games if the club reaches the Final. Based on the Supporters’ Shield table, Inter Miami will play seven more games if it reaches the Final again. The US Open Cup could yield six games if Inter Miami enters in the Third Round as it did last season. Then, Inter Miami will play 34 games in MLS.
Total that up, and Inter Miami will play at most 54 games in those competitions. If MLS follows the same MLS Cup Playoffs structure as this season, that number could rise to 61 with a Wild Card round and the best-of-three series. However, that format had mixed reviews among MLS fans.
There is a slim chance Messi plays in 61 games with Inter Miami. Not only will it be a major challenge for Inter Miami to have success in every competition. Messi may simply miss games. With PSG last season, Messi missed two games after the World Cup after needing a break.
Activity with Argentina ruled him out of games in September and October. While he could have played in games with Inter Miami just days after contests with Argentina, he needed rest to ensure he was not overexerting himself.
Realistic expectations for Messi
With health and Inter Miami’s form, it may be more likely for Messi to play around 45 to 50 of Inter Miami’s games. The MLS season is a grueling one with the addition of the Leagues Cup. There will be times when Inter Miami rests its talisman. The US Open Cup may afford an opportunity against weaker opposition for Inter Miami to not use its best player.
Inter Miami will have a talented squad, and that will lead to success in cup competitions. Yet, with a strong portion of the potential games happening in single-elimination tournaments, one slip-up could decrease the number of games Messi plays with Inter Miami in 2024.
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