Major League Soccer’s schedule conflicts with FIFA international breaks in September and October, with possible serious consequences for Inter Miami’s long-shot playoff hopes.
"…We need to understand that when (Messi’s) not here the team still needs to provide results."- Inter Miami coach Tata Martino
Lionel Messi, who cemented his legacy as the this generation’s greatest player by leading Argentina to the 2022 World Cup championship less than a year ago, is expected to help La Albiceleste — the “white and sky blue” — at least qualify for the 2026 Cup being hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada, Argentina will host Ecuador (and Messi’s Ecuadorian teammate, Leonardo Campana?) in Buenos Aires Thursday, Sept. 7, and play Bolivia at La Paz on Tuesday, Sept. 12. It will play Paraguay and Peru on Oct. 12 and Oct. 17, respectively.
Inter Miami, 11 points out of the Eastern Conference’s last playoff position, will host Sporting Kansas City Sept. 9 and FC Cincinnati (in a rematch of this month’s U.S. Open Cup final) Oct. 7. FIFA rules allow players to take at least four days away from their club team for international duty, five if the matches are played on a different continent.
If Argentina calls on Messi — and it’s inconceivable that they wouldn’t — FIFA rules require Inter Miami to release him for qualifying. It is what it is, and what it is for Herons fans is darned inconvenient; as my colleague Matt Clark has explained, Inter Miami likely needs 24 points from its 11 remaining matches to have a realistic shot at the playoffs. It’s going to be tough even with Messi playing for the Pink & Black; without him, the degree of difficulty increases dramatically.