Lionel Messi's participation in the US Open Cup final hangs in the balance as Inter Miami gear up to face Houston Dynamo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The football superstar, who has played sparingly in recent league matches, missed a win over Sporting Kansas City due to international duty and has been dealing with muscle fatigue.
Despite these setbacks, Messi showcased his brilliance by leading Miami to victory in the 2023 Leagues Cup, netting an impressive 10 goals.
Inter Miami's coach, Gerardo Martino, has revealed that Lionel Messi's involvement in the US Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo remains uncertain.
Martino has acknowledged the importance of this final and is considering pushing Messi to play, stressing that they won't take risks if it weren't a final. The uncertainty surrounding Messi's fitness adds intrigue to the upcoming clash.
Martino also disclosed that Jordi Alba, Messi's former Barcelona teammate at Inter Miami, is likely to miss the game due to an injury, adding to the team's woes. Messi's presence on the pitch, however, is still a possibility, and his participation hinges on a last-minute evaluation.
This final represents a significant opportunity for Inter Miami to secure its second major trophy since Messi joined the club, following their victory in the Leagues Cup last month. Martino emphasized that Messi's consideration for the game is solely due to the prestigious final and the potential title at stake.
On the other side, Houston Dynamo seeks its second US Open Cup title in five years, recognising the potential boost it could provide for the club's profile.
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, who has been grappling with an injury initially attributed to muscle fatigue, continues to undergo assessment and consultation with the coaching staff. Martino stressed the importance of considering Messi's well-being, the significance of the final itself, and the future implications.
Despite his absence from recent training sessions and matches, Messi's potential return has been a focal point of discussions leading up to the US Open Cup final. Inter Miami supporters await the decision eagerly, as the team seeks to add another accolade to its cabinet.
Midfielders Hector Herrera and Adalberto Carrasquilla have been instrumental in Houston's promising MLS season under manager Ben Olsen. Houston currently sits fourth in the Western Conference, positioning itself for its first playoff berth since 2017.
Winning against Messi's Miami could reignite interest in MLS in the nation's fourth-largest city.
Olsen is keenly aware of the significance of this match, with Inter Miami's star power and the attention it draws. He views it as an opportunity to reconnect with fans and rejuvenate the club's culture, which has faced challenges in the past decade.
The uncertainty surrounding Messi's participation adds an extra layer of intrigue to this historic competition, which has been a part of American soccer since 1914.
The US Open Cup, a longstanding tournament in American football history, is a cherished event that showcases the depth and diversity of football talent across the nation.
Its roots trace back to 1914, making it the oldest soccer competition in the United States. The tournament encompasses both amateur and professional teams, offering a level playing field for clubs from various divisions to compete and etch their names in the annals of US football.
For Inter Miami, the importance of the US Open Cup cannot be overstated. This tournament provides a valuable platform for the club to demonstrate its brilliance and potentially secure its second major trophy since Lionel Messi joined the ranks.
The triumph in the Leagues Cup last month marked a significant achievement, and clinching the US Open Cup would further solidify the club's growing reputation and success.
The prospect of lifting the US Open Cup trophy is a tantalising one for Inter Miami. It is not just about the victory itself but also about the honour, recognition, and the sense of achievement that comes with it.