Lionel Messi and Sergio Kun Agüero have been friends for over two decades, so when Agüero learned his old teammate was going to Miami, he was thrilled. On Thursday, he acknowledged to being startled but glad since Messi will be happy living pressure-free and seeking happiness with his family in South Florida.
“Leo, listen to me,” Agüero smiled. Your team’s behind! To make the playoffs, get it to eighth or ninth.
Messi’s first significant American test may be that. He will join a last-place squad in a league far inferior than the two he played in Europe.
Inter Miami has struggled since its founding. It joined the league in 2020 with glitz but rapidly tarnished itself with poor soccer and sloppy, dishonest administration. It unlawfully built a bad club by underreporting salaries to avoid MLS spending rules.
Miami was fined, suspended, and fired in 2021 after a league investigation uncovered violations. The squad improved in 2022 but had the poorest attendance in the league and fell back to the bottom in 2023. Its third coach in four seasons. Not Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Agüero sent his pal the MLS Eastern Conference standings.
However, Messi will enter it next month, more than halfway through his first of four MLS seasons. He’ll join a side with the league’s lowest anticipated goal difference and 15 points from 16 games.
FiveThirtyEight’s SPI model forecasts that 25 of 29 MLS teams still have playoff odds of 35% or greater this season, while Inter Miami has a 5% chance—which doesn’t account for Messi’s approaching arrival but does show the difficulty of his challenge.
He’ll instantly become the league’s finest player. He’s a little giant who’s nevertheless great. He’ll distract opponents. Gravity improves teammates. He will dazzle with the ball.
He may have more room and leisure than in France or Spain. Ligue 1 is sixth, La Liga is third, while MLS is at best 10th. Data-driven global soccer club indices place its top team, LAFC, in the bottom half of La Liga. Top-heavy rosters. GOAT will outclass its numerous lackluster veterans and starry-eyed kids.
Its playoff system is outrageously forgiving. Inter Miami has been awful for over four months and is barely six points behind ninth place in the league, the bar it must cross to qualify for the tournament. Miami’s title chances are now +1800, the seventh-shortest, because it just has to finish among the league’s 18 top clubs and ride Messi’s genius through a few playoff rounds.