By Brian Maurer
Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC
In a recent conference that included The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio and Felipe Cardenas, Don Garber stated that Lionel Messi was under no contractual obligation to play any allotted amount of minutes. “No player makes any guarantee about the number of games that they’re going to play…In all my 40 years of sports, things happen, players get injured. There’s all sorts of things that happen in sports” Garber said during the conference.
He also said that teams playing against Messi who primarily use turf would be allowed to decide whether to switch to grass or stick with turf. Tenorio and Cardenas reported that Garber stated his “expectations” are that teams who play on turf would install temporary grass when playing Inter Miami. “My expectations are that that’s what they will do, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to figure all of that out,” Garber told reporters. Two clubs (Atlanta and Charlotte) play on turf and are hosting Inter Miami during the season's final stretch.
Charlotte FC will be hosting Inter Miami on decision day, which could be a pivotal game for both teams. The Crown could face additional pressure if Atlanta United, who hosts Inter Miami a month earlier, opts to add natural grass. Especially if Messi publicizes that he would rather not play on turf. Charlotte FC has announced that they will be opening the upper deck to fans for this matchup. Many of those fans will expect to see Messi play.
While it may not be a great look for teams to accommodate their playing surfaces to the requests of the opposition. Messi is a unique case due to the impact he will be providing to all MLS clubs. This is the thought process that Garber has based on these recent reports.
Photo courtesy of Abigail Mangum
According to The Athletic, both Charlotte FC and Atlanta United were not planning to change their artificial turf surfaces.
An official statement was released July, 20th, 2023 with the following message "All of our Major League Soccer matches are scheduled to be played on turf and there is no plan to change to natural grass."