The Turf War Involving Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi

There may be some matches where Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi elects not to play… and for good reason.

Inter Miami's Lionel Messi has become a big draw for teams playing the Herons. That could be in jeopardy for some teams with turf fields.
Inter Miami's Lionel Messi has become a big draw for teams playing the Herons. That could be in jeopardy for some teams with turf fields. / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

Most, if not all, remaining matches for Inter Miami (home and away) are sold out.

The reason is pretty simple: Lionel Messi.

Messi along with fellow 2015 Barcelona Champions League teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba have come to South Florida for their next soccer adventure.

But, there is some speculation that, despite fan support across Major League Soccer clambering to see Messi, he may not be available for every match.

Let’s break it down.

The Turf War, Lionel Messi and Inter Miami Matches

I don’t mean a turf war like the Sharks and the Jets in “West Side Story.”

I mean a war over actual turf.

In a report from The Mirror, Messi is believed to be against playing on anything but grass.

There are six sides in Major League Soccer that have turf fields — New England Revolution, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Charlotte FC, Atlanta United and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

For the rest of this season, Inter Miami has two of those clubs on its away schedule… Charlotte FC and Atlanta United.

Officials in Charlotte announced it was opening up the upper bowl of Bank of America stadium to ticket sales for its home fixture with the Herons.

Atlanta plays at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is an indoor facility.

Messi has not had to deal with playing on artificial turf as his previous two leagues — La Liga in Spain and Ligue 1 in France- have banned using turf as playing surfaces.

UEFA, Europe’s governing body for soccer, does allow turf to be used, but only in the championship final. Otherwise, it is banned for group and knockout stage play.

So, this would be the first instance where Messi will be faced with a decision on whether or not to play on an artificial turf field.

Give Me Sport dug up other instances where players were averse to playing on turf, including Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham.

"As a professional athlete, you can’t play a game like soccer on that sort of field. What it does to your body as a soccer player, you’re in bits for three days after that. Every game, every team should have grass, without a doubt. You can’t ask any athlete to perform at a high level on FieldTurf."

David Beckham

Former AC Milan and LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic also said he was against playing matches on artificial turf.

There’s some data to back up concerns of playing on artificial turf.

A 2022 NFL Players Association Report found that NFL players had a higher rate of injury playing on artificial turf compared to grass.

MLS Working on a Solution to the Turf War

Ultimately, the decision to have artificial turf over grass is a club-by-club decision.

However, MLS Commissioner Don Garber told The Athletic that a simple solution would be to have clubs install a grass field over their existing turf surface.

Charlotte FC has already made a decision on whether or not they will install grass:

He said due to hosting international matches, that is something that’s been done before.

However, the main reason why teams use turf over grass is simple: cost.

It’s much cheaper to maintain a turf field than it is to maintain grass.

Plus, turf is more weather-resistant than grass, which means there is far less potential for match cancelation on a turf field than there is on a grass one.

Ultimately, I have to agree with Messi, Beckham and Ibrahimovic on the dangers of playing on a turf field.

And, if Messi elects not to play in Atlanta or Charlotte (and those teams refuse to install a grass field overlay), then they will have to deal with the fans who paid to come watch Messi play.