Lionel Messi continues his goal-scoring streak as Inter Miami advances to the Leagues Cup final
Inter Miami’s success continues to be fueled by Lionel Messi’s remarkable performances on the field.
In a Leagues Cup semifinal match against the Philadelphia Union, Messi unleashed a powerful long-range shot in the 20th minute that sailed past three defenders, sending the ecstatic crowd into celebration. The fans, who had paid record-breaking prices for soccer tickets in the Philly area, witnessed Inter Miami secure a 4-1 victory.
Messi, a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, showcased his talent by scoring his ninth goal in just six matches for his new team. The crowd, which exceeded 20,000 fans, experienced ticket prices skyrocketing well over $1,000 on the secondary market.
Notably, even three dedicated Union season-ticket holders decided to don Messi gear for the night, forsaking their usual team apparel. Additionally, fans eagerly lined up for Messi jerseys (with authenticity not guaranteed) and indulged in Messi-themed food offerings from a local food truck.
The impact of Messi’s presence was undeniable, not only for Inter Miami but also for the Union. Despite their desire to win, the Union’s coffers were filled, and they gained unprecedented global attention that surpassed any previous game in their history.
The atmosphere reached a fever pitch when Messi was introduced, and the crowd erupted once again when he scored, leaping in celebration with his arms extended and his fist clenched in the air. The rest of the match seemed almost inconsequential.
Inter Miami’s victory was further secured by goals from Jordi Alba, Josef Martinez, and David Ruiz in the first and second halves. They will now compete in the Leagues Cup championship game on Saturday, facing either Nashville or the Mexican club Monterrey. The Philadelphia Union managed to score a goal in the second half, thanks to Alejandro Bedoya.
While there was speculation about moving the game from Subaru Park to Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Eagles, Union principal owner Jay Sugarman confirmed that the decision to keep the game at Subaru Park was made to prioritize the meaningful tournament and the team’s desire to win trophies.
The game was graced by the presence of Philly native and Hall of Fame boxer Bernard Hopkins, who struck the ceremonial drum, and NBA MVP Joel Embiid, who expressed his interest in the match, having played soccer in his childhood in Cameroon.
The demand for tickets to watch Messi in action was unprecedented. Led by the passionate supporters group known as the “Sons of Ben,” the game sold out within 10 minutes, and ticket prices soared on the secondary market. Seats that typically cost $43 in the River End section reached over a thousand dollars, and the average ticket price of $556 set a new record for the Union. Just an hour before the game, lower-level tickets were still being sold for $450 and above.
Outside the stadium, Messi Mania was in full swing. Messi, who led Argentina to win the World Cup last year, has become a global phenomenon akin to the legendary 1992 Dream Team.
Angel Pagan and her family, despite being Union season-ticket holders, proudly donned Messi shirts. They are such ardent fans of Messi that they named their youngest son Lionel in his honor. Pagan even upgraded their tickets for the game to secure closer seats, regardless of the high cost involved, simply because it was Messi.
Under the guidance of coach Jim Curtin, who has been with the Union for a decade, the team has flourished and established itself as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. In 2020, they secured their first Supporters’ Shield trophy, awarded to the MLS team with the best regular-season record. Last season, the Union narrowly missed out on the MLS Cup, losing to LAFC. Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant recognized the Union’s potential and invested in the team.
The arrival of Messi has undoubtedly added a new layer of complexity to the Union’s path, as well as to the ambitions of all other teams in their pursuit of an MLS championship.
Jay Sugarman aptly summarized the impact of Messi’s presence, stating, “This is a fantastic league with a growing fanbase, but you always need that match to really light it. Messi is the match.”