The hottest ticket in the MLS, Inter Miami and Lionel Messi make their way to BMO Stadium this weekend to take on LAFC.
Messi made his MLS debut on Saturday scoring the second goal in a Inter Miami 2-0 victory against the New York Red Bulls. In that match, Messi came off the bench and played the final 30 minutes of the match, along with teammate Sergio Busquets.
Before the match against LAFC, coach Gerardo Martino’s team will face Nashville on Wednesday at home. Inter Miami will then have to travel across the country to face LAFC on Sunday night (7 p.m. on Apple TV).
Read more: LAFC vs. Inter Miami: ¿Jugará Messi contra Vela y Chiellini? Fecha y hora del juego aquí
“Our talks have centered on the fact that we will have three matches scheduled in a short window and he will need to rest,” Martino said about the decision to have Messi come off the bench. Martino said that given the seven matches that Messi played in the Leagues Cup and another in the Open Cup, Messi needed some rest. Martino also didn’t guarantee that Messi would play in all the MLS games on the schedule.
Messi’s arrival to the MLS has been a revelation both on and off the field. He has scored in his nine matches in the U.S. while ticket prices to see him play in person have ballooned around the country.
“After a successful run of matches during the last month, having him play just 30 minutes in his last game was beneficial for his recovery,” said Martino, who also confirmed that Messi will start the next two matches against Nashville and LAFC, barring injury.
Lionel Messi, left, will face LAFC and Carlos Vela this Sunday. (Associated Press )
Inter Miami find themselves in second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points and 11 games left on the schedule. They are 11 points behind Chicago for the last playoff spot and need to maintain their current run of form to make it to the postseason.
But Inter Miami is facing a tough upcoming schedule with Nashville, whom they beat in the Finals of the League Cup, and defending champion LAFC.
Messi will then travel to Argentina to join his national team to start qualification for the 2026 World Cup with matches against Ecuador on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires and against Bolivia on Sept. 12 in an away match.
Read more: Is Messi bringing more European stars to the MLS?
One of the LAFC men responsible for containing Messi, Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini was very clear about the challenges the Argentine presents.
“If you think Messi is a normal player, then you are making a serious mistake,” Chiellini said. “It just shows you haven’t been paying attention over the last 15 years.”
On the LAFC side, Carlos Vela has returned from injury and scored in a match last week against Colorado, before coming on as a sub last Saturday in a defeat against Charlotte.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.