MLS: All Eyes on Lionel Messi as MLS Starts 29th Season

MLS Sports News


  • The first game of the 29th Major League Soccer season is Wednesday night featuring Lionel Messi and Inter Miami hosting Real Salt Lake.
  • Messi made an immediate impact joining Inter Miami last July, scoring 11 goals in 13 games for the Herons, but they failed to make the playoffs.
  • Inter Miami is favored to win the MLS Cup in December.

Lionel Messi took Miami and the MLS by storm last summer, what will he do for an encore in 2024?

Inter Miami (unofficial nickname: the Herons) opened the season Wednesday night hosting Real Salt Lake in Fort Lauderdale. With Messi, and a bevy of former FC Barcelona teammates alongside, Inter Miami is the team the whole world is watching. Messi scored 11 goals in limited appearances for the Herons last season.

Sports bettors in Michigan will have to go a long way to see Messi in person (we will explain) but Michigan sportsbooks are full of odds on MLS, Messi and Inter Miami. DraftKings and FanDuel each have odds on who will win the MLS Cup, and BetMGM has markets on each game including goals scored by Messi.

The Man, The Myth, Messi 

The 36-year-old Messi may be nearing the end of his playing career, and we can debate for a long time the level of play in America/MLS compared to the rest of the world, but there’s no denying his impact on the pitch with Inter Miami.

It was a wonder to behold. Inter Miami won the Leagues Cup (the combination of MLS and La Liga in Mexico) and reached the final of the U.S. Open Cup.

Messi’s credentials are astounding. He has won a record eight Ballon d’Or awards, two World Cup Golden Balls and the FIFA World Player of the Year. If we listed all his accomplishments, we’d be here a long time.

How Much Will Messi Play and Where? 

There’s pressure on Inter Miami and Messi to play as much as possible in the MLS regular season. Ticket prices for Inter Miami games are going for almost double their retail price.

But it’s not realistic to think Messi will play in every Inter Miami game this season. Messi will likely be called away to represent Argentina for Copa America and possibly the Paris Olympics.

Michigan soccer fans will have to make a long drive to see Messi in person. Detroit City FC remains the highest-level soccer team in the state (USL, kind of like triple-A). Inter Miami is scheduled to play in Columbus Oct. 2 and in Toronto Oct. 5. That’s as close as Messi will come to Michigan, and it’s way too soon to know if he will play in either game.

And the MLS Preview Without Messi 

For all the pomp and circumstance, Inter Miami still finished 14th in the Eastern Conference, second to last. Columbus beat the LA Galaxy to win the MLS Cup and returns the bulk of their side in 2024. MLS hasn’t had back-to-back champions since 2012.

FC Cincinnati was the dominant team in the MLS regular season last year finishing with 20 wins and 69 points. Cincinnati midfielder Luciana Acosta was the MLS MVP in 2023 with 17 goals and 14 assists. He became the sixth player in league history with three or more seasons with at least 10 goals and 10 assists.

This is also the first MLS season since 2016 with no expansion teams. The San Diego Football Club is scheduled to enter MLS as an expansion team in 2025. Other expansion possibilities in the years to come include Las Vegas, Phoenix and Sacramento.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.