Inter Miami start the 2024 MLS season with a target on their back

Share

Inter Miami’s pre-season wasn’t exactly serene. Indeed, Lionel Messi and co. lost to Al-Hilal (who scored four against them) and Al-Nassr (who scored six) in Saudi Arabia. They also failed to beat El Salvador, FC Dallas and Vissel Kobe all while clocking up the air miles travelling from one continent to the next. 


By Graham Ruthven


Victory over a Hong Kong XI should have provided some relief, but it came amid protests from fans after Messi failed to appear. The 36-year-old rested due to injury despite being the main attraction for a sell-out crowd. Ultimately, fans were refunded – following a statement by the Hong Kong government – setting an interesting precedent for a team whose best player will surely have his minutes managed in 2024.

Expectations are high for Inter Miami ahead of the new Major League Soccer season. The South Florida club have arguably assembled the strongest roster in league history with the core of Messi, Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba enough to give Inter Miami a chance in every match they play.

Pre-season, however, has highlighted the pitfalls Inter Miami must avoid to enjoy a successful 2024. For all the elite level talent in the dressing room at DRV PNK Stadium, it wouldn’t take much for this season to tip into farce just as Inter Miami’s friendly matches in various corners of the earth did. 

First and foremost, Inter Miami must keep their veteran stars fit. Messi can only be a difference maker if he is on the pitch and there are concerning signs that injuries are becoming more common for the 36-year-old at this late stage of his career – Messi missed a big chunk of last season’s run-in as Inter Miami chased a playoff spot.

Only once in the last 15 years has Messi failed to make 30 league appearances in a single season, but it seems improbably he will reach that number in MLS in 2024 on the basis of the last 12 months. The 2024 Copa America will also disrupt Inter Miami’s campaign with Messi expected to be on international duty for a prolonged period over the summer. 

Alba and Busquets have also missed matches through injury since arriving in MLS last summer while Suárez has joined Inter Miami with a recent track record of serious injury – the Uruguayan striker nearly left Grêmio six months after signing when it became clear he needed daily pain-killing injections in his knee to play.

The signing of several highly-rated youngsters has given Inter Miami balance within their squad with the likes of Diego Gomez, Tomas Aviles and Benjamin Cremaschi willing to do a lot of the leg work, but they will need their best attackers fit and available to win matches this season. That’s the gamble Inter Miami have made. 

Even if Messi, Suárez, Busquets and Alba can stay fit, Inter Miami must find a way to forge a serious sporting project in the middle of the biggest circus MLS has ever season. Celebrity visitors to DRV PNK Stadium last season included LeBron James, Kim Kardashian and Serena Williams. There will be no shortage of distractions again this season.

In 2023, Inter Miami were able to harness the interest around them and use it to give them momentum as they won the inaugural Leagues Cup and made the US Open Cup final. Their matches were events as Messi produced a series of match-winning performances that frequently made Sports Center. It will take great mental resolve for Inter Miami to stay focused, though.

2024 could be a special season for Inter Miami. If everything comes together for them, they will set an unmatched standard at the top of MLS. They will sweep aside everyone in front of them. Messi will be MVP. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this could happen. That’s how good Inter Miami’s players are.

There is another reality, however, in which Inter Miami flame out. In which every gamble they made backfires and Messi is left standing in the burning wreckage. Pre-season doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it will for Inter Miami if the last month has been a warning ahead of a challenging 2024 campaign. 


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every MLS game live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Inter Miami start the 2024 MLS season with a target on their back

Inter Miami’s pre-season wasn’t exactly serene. Indeed, Lionel Messi and co. lost to Al-Hilal (who scored four against them) and Al-Nassr (who scored six) in Saudi Arabia. They also failed to beat El Salvador, FC Dallas and Vissel Kobe all while clocking up the air miles travelling from one continent to the next. 


By Graham Ruthven


Victory over a Hong Kong XI should have provided some relief, but it came amid protests from fans after Messi failed to appear. The 36-year-old rested due to injury despite being the main attraction for a sell-out crowd. Ultimately, fans were refunded – following a statement by the Hong Kong government – setting an interesting precedent for a team whose best player will surely have his minutes managed in 2024.

Expectations are high for Inter Miami ahead of the new Major League Soccer season. The South Florida club have arguably assembled the strongest roster in league history with the core of Messi, Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba enough to give Inter Miami a chance in every match they play.

Pre-season, however, has highlighted the pitfalls Inter Miami must avoid to enjoy a successful 2024. For all the elite level talent in the dressing room at DRV PNK Stadium, it wouldn’t take much for this season to tip into farce just as Inter Miami’s friendly matches in various corners of the earth did. 

First and foremost, Inter Miami must keep their veteran stars fit. Messi can only be a difference maker if he is on the pitch and there are concerning signs that injuries are becoming more common for the 36-year-old at this late stage of his career – Messi missed a big chunk of last season’s run-in as Inter Miami chased a playoff spot.

Only once in the last 15 years has Messi failed to make 30 league appearances in a single season, but it seems improbably he will reach that number in MLS in 2024 on the basis of the last 12 months. The 2024 Copa America will also disrupt Inter Miami’s campaign with Messi expected to be on international duty for a prolonged period over the summer. 

Alba and Busquets have also missed matches through injury since arriving in MLS last summer while Suárez has joined Inter Miami with a recent track record of serious injury – the Uruguayan striker nearly left Grêmio six months after signing when it became clear he needed daily pain-killing injections in his knee to play.

The signing of several highly-rated youngsters has given Inter Miami balance within their squad with the likes of Diego Gomez, Tomas Aviles and Benjamin Cremaschi willing to do a lot of the leg work, but they will need their best attackers fit and available to win matches this season. That’s the gamble Inter Miami have made. 

Even if Messi, Suárez, Busquets and Alba can stay fit, Inter Miami must find a way to forge a serious sporting project in the middle of the biggest circus MLS has ever season. Celebrity visitors to DRV PNK Stadium last season included LeBron James, Kim Kardashian and Serena Williams. There will be no shortage of distractions again this season.

In 2023, Inter Miami were able to harness the interest around them and use it to give them momentum as they won the inaugural Leagues Cup and made the US Open Cup final. Their matches were events as Messi produced a series of match-winning performances that frequently made Sports Center. It will take great mental resolve for Inter Miami to stay focused, though.

2024 could be a special season for Inter Miami. If everything comes together for them, they will set an unmatched standard at the top of MLS. They will sweep aside everyone in front of them. Messi will be MVP. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this could happen. That’s how good Inter Miami’s players are.

There is another reality, however, in which Inter Miami flame out. In which every gamble they made backfires and Messi is left standing in the burning wreckage. Pre-season doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it will for Inter Miami if the last month has been a warning ahead of a challenging 2024 campaign. 


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every MLS game live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.