Lionel Messi and his former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are on the cusp of making their Major League Soccer debut with Inter Miami CF on Saturday night just 20 miles west of New York City against the New York Red Bulls.
This is a flashpoint moment for MLS in its 27th season. Never has a player of this caliber played in this league — the only legitimate comparison of a player of his caliber playing in the United States being Pele when he joined the New York Cosmos of the NASL in the 1970s.
It’s already been a barnstorming start to Messi’s career with Inter Miami. He scored 10 goals in seven matches while leading the David Beckham-owned club to a Leagues Cup title. On Wednesday, he added two assists in a semifinal win at the US Open Cup over FC Cincinnati.
But now Messi will be tasked with turning around the fortunes of a Miami team that sits dead-last in the Eastern Conference and 14 points out of the final playoff spot with two games in hand over ninth-place Chicago.
Of course, this game isn’t just a coronation for Messi as the new king of MLS — which rightfully should be bestowed atop the Argentinian’s head. The Red Bulls, whose attacking mettle is nowhere near the same stratosphere of Inter Miami’s, are just three points out of that final ninth-place playoff spot in the East having found a way to pick things up after a horrid start to the 2023 season that resulted in the firing of Gerhard Struber.
Troy Lesesne has performed admirably as caretaker manager, going 9-5-5 in 19 matches in charge. But this, understandably, is his toughest test yet.
“This is an extremely important match for us,” Lesesne said. “And the number one reason that this is an important match for us is we want to better our position to try to get into the playoffs.”
Here is how you can catch the action from Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.
Lionel Messi, Inter Miami v. Red Bulls info
- Date: Saturday, Aug. 26
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
- Venue: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ
- How to watch: Apple TV
If you’re in Times Square on Saturday night, you’ll also be able to see the match live as they’ll be broadcasting it on the enormous screens around the area. It’s the first sporting event to be shown live in Times Square since the Super Bowl back in February.