The producers behind Messi Meets America are not planning on including any footage or mentions of the US Open Cup in the docuseries, World Soccer Talk has learned.
Episodes one through three, released October 11 on Apple TV+, cover the period from Lionel Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami until the Leagues Cup Final where Miami defeated Nashville on Saturday, August 19th, 2023.
Episode three ends with the team celebrating the Leagues Cup win and then shows a brief preview of what to expect in the next chapters of the series.
Given that the docuseries is in chronological order, the expectation is that Inter Miami’s next game (against FC Cincinnati in the US Open Cup Final, just four days later, on August 23rd) would be the beginning point of episode four (to be released on November 1).
It is not.
In fact, Messi Meets America Executive Producer Scott Boggins confirmed to World Soccer Talk that there are no plans to mention or include any footage of the US Open Cup in the final three episodes (four through six).
How the producer explains excluding the US Open Cup
“Episodes four, five, and six picks up where the MLS season resumes,” explained Boggins. “And we chart that until the end of the season.”
When pressed on why the story of Inter Miami in the US Open Cup wasn’t included in any of the upcoming episodes, Boggins replied, “We’ve made a purposeful decision to follow the MLS and to follow the story until the MLS Cup.
“We are creatives who are following a storyline and working with our partners to develop the best stories for our viewers.”
The fact that the joint Apple and MLS production decided to focus on Leagues Cup and MLS but not the US Open Cup speaks volumes about the divide between Major League Soccer and the oldest soccer competition in the United States.
MLS excludes US Open Cup run to final
After all, the August 23rd US Open Cup game against FC Cincinnati was a memorable semi-final. In front of a sold-out crowd of 25,513, Messi got two assists in regulation time that ended 3-3. He then scored one of the penalty kicks in the shootout before Benjamin Cremaschi converted the winning kick.
Inter Miami went on to host the US Open Cup Final at DRV PNK Stadium, the home of Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami. The September 27th final saw Inter Miami lose 1-2 to Houston Dynamo. Messi was injured and didn’t play.
Apple does not have the rights to broadcast the US Open Cup games, but certainly both the semi-final and final were the biggest soccer stories in the United States on those dates with Inter Miami capturing many of the headlines. US Soccer, and CBS Sports – the rightsholder – would surely have given Apple and MLS permission to use footage from the game if asked.
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So, why would MLS do this to the US Open Cup?
The reason for MLS not talking about the US Open Cup isn’t because of rights. It’s because of money, control, and power.
For many years, US Soccer partnered with Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of Major League Soccer, on media rights deals as well as sponsorships. That changed last year.
“Soccer United Marketing held the rights to the US Open Cup until last year’s competition in 2022,” Kartik Krishnaiyer, senior writer at World Soccer Talk, explained. “US Soccer pulled those rights back and resold them themselves. CBS Sports is broadcasting [the US Open Cup], but it’s no longer a Soccer United Marketing property.
“But because the media rights and the sponsorship rights are no longer held by MLS, they have no interest in promoting the competition.
“The issue of MLS trying now to undermine the US Open Cup in a very public manner has happened. I think this documentary is part of that effort because then they will skip from the Leagues Cup in Nashville to the quest to make the MLS Cup Playoffs.”
The MLS/Liga MX-controlled Leagues Cup ends up competing directly against the US Soccer-controlled Open Cup. This puts a whole new spin on MLS’ marketing slogan for 2023, “Our soccer, our way.”
MLS continues to denigrate US Open Cup
Major League Soccer excluding the US Open Cup from Messi Meets America is another in a long list of ways that the league has put the cup competition down.
In May, MLS Commissioner Don Garber criticized the US Open Cup as a “poor reflection” of US soccer.
“I would say that they’re not games that we would want our product to be shown to a large audience,” Garber said. “So frankly, I’m not all that disappointed that the audience is small. So I appreciate the enthusiasm about it, but we need to get better with the U.S. Open Cup. It’s just not the proper reflection of what soccer in America at the professional level needs to be.”
Earlier this summer, it was the turn of Major League Soccer Players Association Executive Director Bob Foose to criticize the US Open Cup.
“We haven’t taken a formal MLSPA position on the U.S. Open Cup. I will say my personal opinion is that it’s not at the level that our players should be playing at,” Foose said. “I know the league has worked a lot with the federation and tried to be respectful of what they’re trying to do, but I can tell you that the U.S. Open Cup is certainly not something that our players look forward to.”
A what-if moment
The two biggest storylines featuring Lionel Messi and Inter Miami this summer were the quest to win both the US Open Cup and Leagues Cup trophies. In the end, Miami was able to accomplish only one of those two tasks. But what would have happened if Inter Miami had gone on to win the US Open Cup? Would MLS, Apple, and the producers of the docuseries have avoided any mentions of that in the final episodes too? You have to wonder.
At the end of the day, the Messi Meets America series fails to accurately tell the story of the summer, which was Messi’s escapades in the Leagues Cup, US Open Cup, and MLS. In doing so, it dilutes the authority of the documentary. This is not Messi meets America. It’s Messi meets America that’s owned by MLS.
Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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