Lionel Messi Stuns Soccer, Joins MLS

Argentinian star announces he'll play for Miami Inter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 7, 2023 5:45 PM CDT
Lionel Messi Stuns Soccer, Joins MLS
Argentina forward Lionel Messi takes a successful shot on goal in September 2022 during an international friendly against Honduras in Miami Gardens, Fla.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Lionel Messi has pulled off his latest stunning feat: He is headed to Major League Soccer, and joining Inter Miami. After months—years, even—of speculation, Messi finally revealed his decision to join a Miami franchise that has been led by another global soccer icon, David Beckham, since its inception but has yet to make any real splashes on the field. That likely will soon change. One of Inter Miami’s owners, Jorge Mas, tweeted out a photo of a darkly silhouetted Messi jersey shortly before the Argentinian great revealed his decision to join MLS in interviews with Spanish news outlets Mundo Deportivo and Sport, the AP reports.

Messi said in the interviews Wednesday that final details still need to be worked out, but that he has made the call to "continue my path" in Miami. "After winning the World Cup and not being able to return to Barcelona, it was my turn to go to the league of the United States to live football in another way," he said. Messi's next matches are likely to be exhibitions with Argentina against Australia on June 15 at Beijing and at Indonesia in Jakarta four days later. His Inter Miami debut figures to be sometime in July. He's an enormous draw wherever he plays. "We look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our league," an MLS statement said.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner—an honor given annually to the world's best player— makes his move after two years with Paris Saint-Germain. At 35, Messi has nothing left to prove in the game and filled the only significant unchecked box on his resume in December by leading Argentina to the World Cup title. He has more than 800 goals in his career for club and country, per the AP, making him one of the greatest scorers in the sport's history. Messi's decision to play in the US might be the biggest boost ever for American soccer on the pro stage.

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Some of the game's biggest names—Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Thierry Henry, and Beckham himself—have come to the US toward the end of their careers, but landing a player still no worse than near the pinnacle of his game and just a few months removed from hoisting a World Cup is huge for the sport. "I think it'll be great for the sport in this country, especially ahead of the 2026 World Cup," said Nashville defender Walker Zimmerman, a US national team regular. "And I'm excited to play against him."

(More Lionel Messi stories.)

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