By Jorge Gonzales
Photo Courtesy of Cisco's art
Charlotte FC recently announced the rescheduling of the regular season fixture between Inter Miami and Charlotte FC. Originally scheduled for August 20th, the match will now take place on Wednesday, October 18th, at 8:00 p.m. at DRV Park. Charlotte's home fixture against Inter Miami is on October 21st at Bank of America Stadium.
Consequently, Charlotte FC is slated to face Lionel Messi's side twice within four days. Considering the circumstances, there is a significant likelihood that Messi will be unavailable for both matches. In the following sections, we will delve into the key factors that may contribute to Messi's potential absence from these crucial fixtures.
Argentina National Team duties
In October, the Albiceleste are set to engage in two qualifying matches for the 2026 World Cup, clashing with Paraguay and Peru on October 12th and 17th. While Messi has not provided a definite commitment to participate in the upcoming World Cup, he has expressed his intention to continue representing the national team for the foreseeable future.
Given Charlotte's fixture against Inter Miami scheduled for the 18th, it becomes exceedingly improbable for Messi to partake in the Argentine match on the 17th and subsequently appear in the Miami match on the 18th. As a result, he will likely be absent from this match, and depending on his return, there's a considerable chance he will also miss the fixture at the Bank on the 21st.
Inter Miami's Playoff Chances
As things stand Inter Miami currently sits 14th in the MLS Eastern Conference with 11 matches to go. Irrespective of the outcome of the playoffs, the mere achievement of entering the postseason represents an immense undertaking. Over the final third of the season, Messi and Inter Miami find themselves faced with the daunting challenge of erasing a substantial 11-point deficit that separates them from the last playoff position.
Considering that there are only a maximum of 33 potential points left on the schedule, it becomes crucial for Inter Miami not only to vie for each available point but also to rely on the hope that teams positioned above them drop points. The possibility of Charlotte FC playing Miami with Inter Miami being already eliminated from playoffs is very high. If Inter Miami are already eliminated by the last two games Messi will most likely be rested.
Winning the Leagues Cup provides less pressure
While it would indeed be a notable achievement for Inter Miami to secure a spot in the playoffs, the pressure to win an MLS Cup this season, or even to make the playoffs, has somewhat diminished since the team has already clinched silverware. The expectations surrounding Messi's presence at Miami have revolved around elevating the team's competitiveness and securing trophies, objectives he has already accomplished through his standout performances in the Leagues Cup and his pivotal role in the US Open Cup Semi-Final against FC Cincinnati, which propelled the team to yet another final.
Given the potential of adding two trophies in a single season with Messi's contributions, this season can be deemed successful for Miami regardless of their playoff outcome. This perspective implies that there would be reduced pressure to secure a playoff spot.
All in all, the likelihood of witnessing Messi play against Charlotte FC in MLS, either at Miami or at the Bank of America Stadium, seems to be quite low this season. Most scenarios appear aligned in a way that prevents Charlotte fans from the opportunity to see Messi in action against the Crown in October.