Lionel Messi: What Inter Miami Needs to Qualify for MLS Playoffs After Recent Poor Results

Lionel Messi: What Inter Miami Needs to Qualify for MLS Playoffs After Recent Poor Results

Martin Moses
updated at October 6, 2023 at 5:06 PM
In this article:
Lionel Messi logo
Inter Miami CF logoFArgentina logo
  • Lionel Messi's Inter Miami chances of qualifying for the MLS playoffs are out of their hands
  • The star's injury-enforced absence has seen the side fail to win any of their last four games
  • Sports Brief looks at Inter with and without Messi and how they could still make the playoffs

It goes without saying that the arrival of Lionel Messi at Inter Miami in July gave the club a new lease on life.

Prior to then, the Herons had been rooted at the base of the MLS Eastern Conference and didn't look destined to make it to the playoffs.

With a couple of magical moments from the mercurial Argentine, the club embarked on a nine-match winning streak, which saw them qualify for and win the Leagues Cup final on August 20.

Lionel Messi, Inter Miami, MLS Playoffs
Lionel Messi's impact at Inter Miami was insane. Photo by Tim Nwachukwu.
Source: Getty Images

The general consensus was that Messi, alongside his fellow former Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, had managed to turn the worst team in the country into the best team.

At that time, qualification for the playoffs looked like a guarantee, their last-place position notwithstanding.

Messi's injury affected Inter Miami's stats

Before his arrival, Messi had promised his friend, Sergio Aguero that he would ensure they qualified for the playoffs, as reported by GOAL. But then - disaster struck.

The 36-year-old trudged off the pitch in the dying minutes of Argentina's World Cup qualifier game against Ecuador. He downplayed any serious injury, citing fatigue. In retrospect, the former PSG star has never been the same since that clash at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires.

Messi made his return against Toronto on September 21 but lasted only 36 minutes. He has since missed four games for Tata Martino's side - including the US Open Cup final defeat to Houston Dynamo. The other two games have seen Inter Miami draw twice and lose heavily in the League.

Can Messi's Inter Miami qualify for playoffs?

The defeat, a 4-1 drubbing to Xherdan Shaqiri's Chicago Fire, leaves their chances of making it to the playoffs in tatters. Inter Miami have three games left to play, including against table toppers Cincinnati, who they face on Saturday.

The Major League Soccer is divided into two conferences - East and West - where the top seven in each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs. Positions 8 and 9, then play a one-off game to decide who joins the first seven.

As it stands, Inter Miami cannot make it to the first seven places. Nashville are currently seventh with 45 points, 12 ahead of the David Beckham-owned side, who have only nine points left to play for.

The only viable option for the Herons is to aim for positions eight or nine. They are five points adrift of CF Montreal in ninth place. Montreal have only two games left to play and are winless in their last seven games.

In essence, Inter Miami's fate is no longer in their hands; they will need Montreal to drop points and the other teams between them to stumble for them to make it through.

When will Messi be available for Miami again?

Additionally, they are set to remain without Messi, given that even if he were to be declared fit, he wouldn't be available for their last two games as he will be away on international duty with Argentina.

Basically, Martino's charges are in a wait-and-see situation. The shot in the arm they had since July isn't available at a very integral point of the season.

A defeat against Cincinnati could all but end their playoff hopes. And remember, Cincinatti won't be in the mood to hand them favours. Should Miami go through, they could meet in the second round with a potentially fully fit Messi.

No one wants that...

Martino provides update on Messi injury

Sports Brief also reported on Inter Miami coach, Tata Martino providing an update on Messi's injury situation with the veteran sidelined due to reported muscle fatigue.

The Argentine veteran missed his country's clash against Bolivia and has missed a string of games for the Herons, who have struggled for wins without the new talisman.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)