Football

Trophies that Lionel Messi can win with Inter Miami in USA: MLS, CONCACAF, individual silverware up for grabs

Lionel Messi will arrive at Inter Miami with high expectations.

Largely considered the best player to ever play the game, Messi will begin the next chapter of his career in the United States, moving from PSG to a struggling Inter Miami side which he’ll be expected to transform.

Making his Inter Miami debut on July 21, Messi now has a significant weight on his shoulders, and will be expected to perform from the start in a league where many believe he should dominate — which he has early in his Inter Miami career.

Despite the club’s struggles in MLS earlier season, Messi can still help salvage the campaign for Inter Miami. Here is a breakdown of all the trophies that Messi will be competing for during his time in Major League Soccer in 2023 and beyond.

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Trophies Lionel Messi can win with Inter Miami

Messi may have recently said that he’s accomplished all there is to accomplish in football, but there is a host of silverware in North America that he can still add to his trophy cabinet:

MLS Cup

Major League Soccer awards two main trophies for the league season, and the MLS Cup is the most prestigious of the two.

With the MLS season split into the regular season and playoffs, the MLS Cup is the award handed out to the champion at the end of the playoffs.

Considered the most coveted trophy of the league season, Lionel Messi can win the MLS Cup if he can help guide Inter Miami to the playoffs. Any team that makes the playoffs has a chance to win MLS Cup if they can survive the bracket.

As of Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami, the club sat 14 points away from the final playoff spot up for grabs in the Eastern Conference, with just 12 matches left to make up that ground (11 are scheduled plus one postponed match against Charlotte FC). It will be a monumental climb for the club.

MORE: Beginner’s guide to Lionel Messi’s new club Inter Miami

MLS Supporters’ Shield

The Supporters’ Shield is the second league trophy awarded by Major League Soccer, given to the team that most points during the regular season, regardless of conference.

While the MLS Cup is still awarded to the last team left standing in the playoffs, and is considered to crown the true “champions,” the Supporters’ Shield is often considered a better measure to gauge the best team in the league, given the consistency of excellence required to win the Shield over the course of a long season.

In his first season with Inter Miami, it’s essentially impossible for Messi to win the 2023 Supporters’ Shield given how far behind they are at the end of June, and the number of teams they would have to overtake. But they will surely be among the favorites in 2024 and 2025.

MORE: How Major League Soccer works in 2023

U.S. Open Cup

Every nation has its own domestic cup tournament, and the United States is no different.

The cup tournament in the USA is called the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Contested since 1913, the competition was re-named in 1999 to recognize one of the most dedicated owners in the history of the sport in the United States. 

In its 108th edition, the 2023 U.S. Open Cup saw 99 teams participate from all across the U.S. soccer pyramid, including all 26 MLS teams based in the USA. MLS teams enter later in the competition and compete against USL Championship (2nd division), USL League One (3rd division), NISA (also 3rd division), and NPSL (semi-pro), and amateur entrants.

In his first season at Inter Miami, the club put Messi into the semifinals, where the Argentine picked up two assists in a penalty shootout win over FC Cincinnati. They fell short in the final, however, as the Houston Dynamo won 2-1 while an injured Messi watched from the sideline.

Messi will have to wait until 2024 to take a shot at his first U.S. Open Cup title.

MORE: Full U.S. Open Cup schedule, results, bracket, and highlights for 2023 tournament

CONCACAF Champions Cup

This competition for clubs teams is the equivalent of the Champions League in North America with CONCACAF standing for “Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Association Football.” 

It used to be called the CONCACAF Champions League to align with its sister competitions in Europe, Africa, and Asia, but in 2024 the competition will be reformatted, expanding to 27 teams and taking on a slightly new name.

Inter Miami have qualified for the upcoming CONCACAF Champions Cup by winning the 2023 Leagues Cup title. They will now play in the 2024 continental tournament, which is being expanded for the coming competition.

Only one MLS team has ever won the CONCACAF Champions Cup since 2000, with the Seattle Sounders winning in 2022. LAFC reached the final in 2023, but fell to Mexico’s Club Leon.

MORE: Lionel Messi’s jersey number at Inter Miami

Leagues Cup

The Leagues Cup is a brand new competition featuring every club in MLS and Liga MX — 47 in total — coming together to decide the best team from the two heavyweight leagues in North America. Both MLS and Liga MX will take a break from domestic play from late July through late August to contest the event.

It starts with a group stage and then moves on to a knockout bracket featuring 32 teams: 30 come from the group stage, and they will joining the two league champions from the previous season who receive a bye to the knockouts.

Inter Miami were drawn into a group with MLS club Atlanta United and Mexican side Cruz Azul, who finished eighth in the most recent Liga MX league competition. In Messi’s debut competition with Inter Miami, he electrified the nation, scoring 10 goals in seven games en route to Inter Miami’s first-ever trophy.

MORE: Inter Miami tops Nashville SC on penalties to win 2023 Leagues Cup title

Campeones Cup

Established in 2018, the Campeones Cup is another MLS vs. Liga MX competition that pits the previous league winners from each nation against each other.

Therefore, in order to qualify for the Campeones Cup, Inter Miami would have to win the MLS Cup the previous year.

The 2023 Campeones Cup will feature defending MLS champion LAFC taking on Mexican champions Tigres. Because the Liga MX season is divided into two parts (the Apertura and the Clausura), they hold a one-off match known as the Campeon de Campeones, to determine the champion to advance to Campeones Cup.

MORE: Who is Lionel Messi’s wife?

Copa Interamericana

This competition has not yet been officially announced, but there are reports that CONCACAF and CONMEBOL are teaming up together to revive this old tournament.

The tournament was founded in 1968, originally intended as one-match showcase between the continental club champions from each federation. However, with clubs from both federations featuring in continental competitions from the other (mostly Mexican clubs being invited to participate in the Copa Libertadores), the Copa Interamericana was abolished in 1998.

Now it looks set to be revived in a more modern, expanded format.According to multiple reports, the winners of the previous year’s Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, Leagues Cup, and CONCACAF Champions League will come together in a four-team knockout tournament.

Thus, as Leagues Cup winners, Inter Miami would be a participant if the tournament is held in 2024.

MORE: A full overview of the reportedly revived Copa Interamericana

Individual awards Lionel Messi can win with Inter Miami

Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award

The most prestigious individual domestic award that Lionel Messi could win during his time with Inter Miami would be the MVP award, given out to the best player in a given MLS season.

It’s unlikely that Messi would have a reasonable shot at the 2023 MVP award, given he’ll only be joining for roughly the final third of the campaign. But if he electrifies the league, it shouldn’t be ruled out. He certainly will have a chance to win this award in 2024 or 2025 given his talent level compared to other players in the league.

The award is named after former USMNT great Landon Donovan, who made his mark with the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy.

MORE: Who owns Messi’s new club Inter Miami?

MLS Golden Boot

Like any league, Major League Soccer awards a Golden Boot to the league’s top scorer in a given season.

Again, like with the MVP award, it’s unlikely that Messi will have enough time to catch the leaders for 2023 based on the number of matches remaining and the number of goals he would need to catch up.

Hany Mukhtar was the MLS Golden Boot leader as of July 1, having scored 13 goals in 20 league games thus far for Nashville SC. If two or more players are tied at the top of the standings, the tiebreaker is assists, which Messi also excels at collecting.

MORE: Biggest signings in MLS history before Messi

Can Lionel Messi win the Ballon d’Or?

If Lionel Messi absolutely obliterates Major League Soccer and continues to have success with Argentina at the international level, many might wonder whether he could make a run at the Ballon d’Or from North America.

The only issue is that he would not be eligible. The Ballon d’Or is only awarded to a player at a European club. Because Messi played for PSG for the first half of the season, he is eligible for the 2023 selection, but in 2024, he will not be considered for the individual award.

Until 1995, the award was only given to European-born players, but the criteria was expanded to include players from around the world. Still, they must play for a European-based club to be eligible for the award.

MORE: Lionel Messi’s career Ballon d’Or trophies

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