With Inter Miami now eliminated from MLS playoff contention, their final two matches of the regular season are simply a formality, and thus Lionel Messi’s participation in those games was thought to be unclear.
However, the matches are not entirely meaningless, as their opponent for both games, Charlotte FC, are still very much in the thick of the playoff hunt and need every point possible to secure a spot in the postseason.
The two teams meet twice to conclude the campaign, first in Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday before finishing up in Charlotte on Saturday alongside the rest of Major League Soccer.
With Messi’s availability for both games now known, The Sporting News brings you all the info regarding his status for the two fixtures as Decision Day looms across MLS.
Will Lionel Messi play vs Charlotte FC on Wednesday?
Lionel Messi will not play against Charlotte FC on Wednesday, October 18, as the match falls less than 24 hours after Messi played for Argentina on the road against Peru in World Cup qualifying.
The match is a rescheduled fixture from earlier in the season which was pushed to accommodate Inter Miami as they progressed deep into the U.S. Open Cup.
Messi saw the field for the full 90 minutes in that match, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory to keep Argentina perfect through the first four matches of qualifying.
The two goals saw Messi become the all-time leading goal scorer in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying history, snatching his 30th and 31st career goals in qualification play to pass Luis Suarez atop the list.
Will Lionel Messi play at Charlotte FC on Saturday?
Lionel Messi has confirmed that he will play in the regular season finale against Charlotte FC on Saturday, October 21.
“I will train and play the remaining game,” Messi told Argentine media following the win over Peru on Tuesday.
However, it’s not quite clear what role he will play. It’s possible that Inter Miami look to limit his minutes, especially given the match is on a turf field at Bank of America Stadium.
Messi has previously stated that playing on turf is not an issue for him, but he did skip Inter Miami’s road game at Atlanta United on September 16, the only other Inter Miami fixture on turf this season. Inter Miami lost that match 5-2 in Messi’s absence.
With Messi also just recently coming back from an injury that Inter Miami head coach Gerardo Martino claimed was thanks to “fatigue,” it’s possible that Messi plays a limited role in this game as he heads into a long offseason layoff.
When will Lionel Messi begin 2024 season? Long winter layoff coming
Lionel Messi will enjoy a long winter break at the conclusion of the 2023 MLS season, which will only be broken up by the occasional international duty.
Once the MLS regular season concludes on Saturday, October 21, Inter Miami’s campaign will be sealed, with no chance at a postseason berth.
Following the conclusion of their MLS season, Inter Miami will fly out to China for two friendly matches against Qingdao Hainiu FC and Chengdu Rongcheng on November 5 and 6 respectively. It’s unclear if Messi will be included in the travelling party.
Following the trip to China, they will have no games until the 2024 campaign begins, although when that is has yet to be precicely determined. Messi will not have club fixtures again until either February or March of 2024, depending on when the MLS season kicks off and when the CONCACAF Champions Cup begins.
You can read more about when Messi’s 2024 season will start by clicking here.
However, he will still participate in Argentina’s November qualifying fixtures against Uruguay and Brazil.
Messi did flat out reject the rumors of him going on loan this winter, meaning he will not join another club to bridge the gap from now until the start of the 2024 Inter Miami season.