MLS: Lionel Messi Returning to Pitch for Inter Miami Against Toronto

darren cooper
By:
Darren Cooper
19/09/2023/
MLS

Highlights

  • Since signing a record deal with Inter Miami, soccer superstar Lionel Messi has scored 11 goals in 11 games.
  • Messi has elevated Major League Soccer’s profile and profits in a short time.
  • Messi did not play in Inter Miami’s last game against Atlanta United dealing with “muscle fatigue.”

The expectations were enormous, yet somehow Lionel Messi has already surpassed them.
Messi, 36, signed a deal with Inter Miami FC of Major League Soccer in July worth anywhere between $50-$60 million a season and has made the Herons the talk of the sports world.

After missing Inter Miami’s last game with Atlanta United, it was announced late Monday that Messi would be in the line-up when the club hosts Toronto FC Wednesday at DrivePink Stadium in Miami.

The news sent American online sportsbooks scrambling to post new lines on the game and Messi’s performance. BetMGM has Miami -250 to win and markets on him to score the first goal and number of tallies. FanDuel has game markets and player props for Messi Wednesday.

Messi Mania Takes Over

In America, Messi has catapulted his new team to unprecedented heights. The team’s Instagram account has over 14 million followers, the most of any professional sports team in America. Ticket sales for games have skyrocketed, so much so that many teams have reported a surge in season ticket purchases, just so fans can see Messi.

On the field, Messi led Inter Miami to the League Cup championship (a tournament between every MLS team and Mexico’s La Liga) and to the U.S. Open Cup Final next week against Houston.

The video of his first goal against Cruz Azul got over 214 million views on social media and counting. His No. 10 jersey is on back order all the way to October.

Messi The Marvel

Messi dominated the Leagues Cup with three goals in the two group stage games, two more in the Round of 32, two more in the Round of 16. He had the club’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw in the final before Inter Miami won 10-9 on penalties.

But he is 36 and Inter Miami is being careful not to wear him out. Messi last played in a World Cup qualifier for his native Argentina against Ecuador. He didn’t play in the Herons last regular season game against Atlanta United citing muscle fatigue (code for he was probably just tired).

What’s Next for Messi?

It’s incredible that a game between the team 14th in the Eastern Conference standings (Miami) against the team that is 15th (Toronto) would draw any attention whatsoever, but this is Messi’s world and we’re just living in it.

That’s what happens when you are the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, a World Cup champion and two-time winner of the World Cup Golden Ball.

Only the top nine teams in each conference make the MLS playoffs, and Inter Miami is far off the pace. Also Messi’s schedule is being kept well-guarded. He will probably play as much as he wants to play and not a minute more.

But Messi has elevated the stature of his club and the sport in soccer, accomplishing so much in so little time. Every minute he’s on the pitch is worth watching.

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.