Worse News for MLS Than Inter Miami Regarding Messi’s Latest Injury Scare

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Following Inter Miami’s 3-1 Concacaf Champions Cup victory over Nashville SC on Saturday night, Miami manager Tata Martino disclosed that Lionel Messi’s early second-half substitution was indeed due to a leg injury and that the player would likely not play in Saturday’s league game against D.C. United.

Messi had already missed last weekend’s 3-2 league loss to CF Montreal due to an injury he sustained during the first meeting of the round-of-16 series with Nashville the week prior.

As he plays for Argentina during the March international window, he will almost definitely miss the next two MLS games, first against the Washington Redskins as a precautionary measure and then the following week against the New York Red Bulls.

Looking even farther ahead, it wouldn’t be shocking if he skipped Miami’s home game on March 30 against New York City FC, which is only three or four days after Miami’s Leg 1 of the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal.

Due to the schedule congestion that results from juggling league play and European participation, Miami’s timing isn’t ideal. However, the Herons have plenty of time in the second half of the season to make up for these and other absences that are anticipated when Messi represents Argentina in the Copa America this summer.

The news is most likely worse for Major League Soccer as a whole.

First of all, Messi won’t be able to travel with his squad to the two American cities that may have the highest concentrations of foreign journalists. It will be difficult to top the worldwide media exposure that Messi’s two visits to Red Bull Arena and Audi Field could have generated, even though there will undoubtedly be larger crowds to welcome him elsewhere.

Additionally, because the MLS’s global streaming partner controls the rights to all regular season and postseason games as well as the Leagues Cup—but not the Concacaf Champions Cup—his return to the injury list will restrict the number of live appearances he makes on Apple TV.

The 14 MLS games this weekend will be accessible for free in front of the MLS Season Pass paywall, beginning with Saturday’s matchup in Washington. Furthermore, Messi’s absence will undoubtedly lessen the impact of the event meant to spark interest in the subscription service.

The episode serves as a reminder of Major League Soccer’s limited ability to maximize the visibility of its most valuable asset.

According to reports, Messi’s contract with Inter Miami included a payment to Apple TV in exchange for a share of the membership fees Apple charged for the Season Pass service. However, he has always prioritized trying to win championships in his role as an Inter Miami player, regardless of who owns the rights to competition.

Because of Concacaf, Messi appeared in three games this season on FOX networks and Season Pass in the United States. FS2 broadcast his Champions Cup matches. A Club World Cup berth and $5 million would be awarded for victory. If MLS doesn’t meet FOX’s standards, they might not gain anything.

Messi’s post-Leagues Cup mad dash to the U.S. Open Cup resulted in ailments that hindered league participation last year. MLS pulled out of the 2024 competition, presumably to keep Messi at bay.

After Messi joined Inter Miami, MLS has followed his example. They might witness Messi put his health ahead of league games this spring and summer in preparation for Miami’s Champions Cup and Copa America.