Inter Miami Still Stand Strong Shot at Leagues Cup Title

We’ve reached the round of 16 in the 2023 Leagues Cup. Inter Miami has gone from bottom of the Eastern Conference to tournament darlings. They still stand a strong shot at winning the title.

Inter Miami manager Tata Martino addresses the media before Friday's Leagues Cup clash against Charlotte FC.
Inter Miami manager Tata Martino addresses the media before Friday's Leagues Cup clash against Charlotte FC. / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

We started with 47 teams from Major League Soccer and Liga MX and now we are down to the last 16.

Inter Miami has made an improbable run in the 2023 Leagues Cup, thanks in large part to the play of Lionel Messi and the Herons’ offense.

With 16 teams left in the knockout stages, Inter Miami have the chance to go from the cellar of the Eastern Conference to winning their first piece of hardware in team history.

Let’s get into their chances.

A Look At Who’s Left In the Tournament

Before we break down Inter Miami’s chances, I’d be remiss if I didn’t look at the other 15 teams left in the tournament.

The first place to start is the most dangerous team — at least by their current Major League Soccer standing — Los Angeles FC.

The Black and Gold have absolutely pummeled their opponents in the Leagues Cup — bear in mind, they didn’t have to go into the group stage because of their standing heading into the tournament.

They started with a 7-1 thrashing of Juarez followed by a 4-0 beatdown of Western Conference foes Real Salt Lake.

Now, not having to compete in the group stage can be a blessing and a curse. They missed out on two matches, but they are relatively rested by not playing those two.

Their attack is solid with Denis Bouanga, Stipe Buik. Carlos Vela is always potent, but there is a question about whether he will be healthy enough to complete the tournament.

Regardless, Inter Miami would not face LAFC until the championship as the Black and Gold are on the other side of the bracket.

Then, you have the Philadelphia Union (I only put them here because of their standing in the Eastern Conference).

The Union breezed through group play with a 3-1 win over Tijuana and a 5-1 shellacking of Queretaro. However, their knockout stage wins have both come on penalty kicks after drawing with both D.C. United and New York Red Bulls in regulation.

That isn’t necessarily a confidence boost when both of your knockout matches go to penalties. They will face Queretaro in the quarters on Friday, so they are favorites to advance.

They would be the semifinal opponent for Inter Miami if both teams advance.

Nashville SC is next on the list after a massive upset of Club America in the previous round.

The biggest threat here is new acquisition Sam Surridge from Nottingham Forest.

He and Hany Mukhtar combined for an equalizer against Club America and both buried their penalties to win the match for Nashville.

They are a potent threat, but like LAFC they are on the other side of the bracket, so nothing to worry about for Inter Miami until the finals.

The last two MLS sides are Charlotte FC and Minnesota United FC. With Charlotte, we’ll get to them in a different post. For Minnesota, they limped into the knockout stage after falling to Chicago Fire in the group stage. Their knockout wins over Columbus Crew and Toluca went to penalties, so there’s that.

Inter Miami Magic or Inter Miami Curse?

The Herons have put on perhaps the most dominant showing in the Leagues Cup outside of LAFC.

They breezed through their group stage — knocking off Cruz Azul and Atlanta United — before dispatching Orlando City in their first knockout match.

Then, it took some Messi magic to propel Inter Miami past FC Dallas in their first away match since signing Mess, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

Now, just taking Messi, Busquets and Alba into account and Inter Miami is not only the most interesting team, but potentially the most dangerous team left in the bracket.

But, as I’ve mentioned before, the Herons have one big problem… its defense.

They gave up early goals to Orlando City and FC Dallas before battling back in both matches.

One thing to keep in mind is that Alba did start against FC Dallas, but I’m not sure he was fully acclimated to the squad.

That should not be an issue on Friday against Charlotte.

The bottom line is that Inter Miami has a serious defense problem that they must solve. That is the only reason why I don’t have them as the favorites to win the Leagues Cup.

I’m really hoping they can surprise me on Friday.