How long is Lionel Messi out for Inter Miami? Possible return date, expected games missed while on Argentina national team duty

Inter Miami will have to continue its drama-filled playoff chase without Lionel Messi for the foreseeable future.

With the club embroiled in a late comeback charge in the Eastern Conference table, Messi will step away from the club to play for his country, called up for September international duty with Argentina.

As Major League Soccer does not pause league play for the international windows, as many other leagues across the globe do, Inter Miami will have to do without Messi and a host of other players during this time.

In fact, Inter Miami will see a whopping nine players depart for international duty in September, the most of any MLS club in this window and the most for Inter Miami in any international window across the club’s short history.

MORE: Drake Callender, Benja Cremaschi amongst players called up to USMNT for September friendlies

How many Inter Miami games will Lionel Messi miss?

According to Inter Miami head coach Gerardo Martino, Lionel Messi will have to miss at least two Inter Miami matches while on international duty with Argentina. However, those three games are not all in the same international window.

Martino actually indicated that Messi would miss three games, but there are only two direct conflicts on the schedule as it stands.

Likely, those matches will be spread across the September and October international breaks. Officially, according to FIFA, international breaks occur from September 4-12, and October 9-17. During those dates, clubs are required to release their players for international games should they be called up.

Lionel Messi has international games with Argentina on the following dates through September and October:

Date Competition Match
Thu, Sep. 7 CONMEBOL
World Cup qualifying
Argentina vs. Ecuador
Tue, Sep. 12 CONMEBOL
World Cup qualifying
Bolivia vs. Argentina
Thu, Oct. 12 CONMEBOL
World Cup qualifying
Argentina vs. Paraguay
Tue, Oct. 17 CONMEBOL
World Cup qualifying
Peru vs. Argentina

The following Major League Soccer matches on Inter Miami’s remaining regular season schedule conflict with the FIFA international breaks:

Date Competition Match
Sat, Sep. 9 MLS regular season Inter Miami vs. Sporting KC
Wed, Oct. 18 MLS regular season Inter Miami vs. Charlotte FC

“The importance is that we value winning and winning this way because it’s something we have to get accustomed to. Leo is gonna miss at least three games,” Martino said back in late August when asked about Messi’s potential time away from the club. “He’s gonna get called up by his national team and others too. We know that the team has to continue to win without them at times.”

Per Gerardo Martino’s comments, it’s possible that Messi misses one or two additional matches on the front or back end of the international breaks, either due to travel conflicts or rest required from such a heavy fixture schedule and the requisite travel required.

Why does MLS play through international breaks?

Most leagues pause for a short break during FIFA international windows, but since its inception, Major League Soccer has always played without pause during these times, with teams forced to play games without its most internationally successful players.

Clubs are required to release players during recognized FIFA international windows, but leagues are not required to stop play during these times. Most leagues choose to for competitive balance purposes, but Major League Soccer has elected not to.

Part of the reason for doing so is to alleviate fixture congestion in other areas of the season. Some places in the Untied States suffer from harsh winters, and thus, MLS has decided that getting games in during these windows to keep from lengthening the season further into the colder months is more important than pausing during international windows.

However, that may be changing. Inter Miami head coach Gerardo Martino hinted that MLS will seriously consider changes to the schedule in 2024, with pauses during international breaks being introduced.

“I have it understood that they are analyzing that for next year,” Martino said during Inter Miami media availability in late August. “It is probable that that will happen.”

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