The problem with hinging an entire league’s reputation and financial fortune on one man is what do you do when that man isn’t around? If you’re MLS, you kind of shut your eyes and put your fingers in your ears and pretend it’s not a problem.
Lionel Messi hasn’t played in Inter Miami’s last three games. On Saturday, even though Messi had missed the previous two games and hadn’t trained, there was no announcement of him missing out on NYCFC’s visit until 45 minutes before kickoff. Which smells a little funny. It’s almost as if MLS still wanted everyone who had a ticket to come to the stadium and…buy things?
So far, for Wednesday’s game in Chicago against the Fire, there has been no word on whether Messi is playing. He’s certainly not training, but the league nor Miami will say. Some Argentine reporters are, but no one’s commenting on that. The Fire are expecting the largest crowd they’ve had at Soldier Field since they moved back there in 2020, and some people have paid exorbitant prices on the secondary market to be there.
Inter then hosts FC Cincinnati on Saturday.
The tickets are already bought, so MLS is just trying to squeeze every dollar it can without being totally fair to fans. They certainly don’t want the optics of a half-full stadium watching what is now its glamor team, but there are no guarantees in sports. Sometimes Messi isn’t going to make the bell. It’ll be the same story next year when Messi will be 37. He’s not going to play all 34 league games (or whatever amount MLS decides on that year), the two cups MLS teams participate in (if the Leagues Cup is run back), the CONCACAF Champions League, as well as Copa America for Argentina. Fans are aware of this, or at least they should be.
Sure, fans are going to feel shortchanged when instead of Messi’s first visit they’re watching two teams that are supposedly in a playoff race, but are actually just dog vomit. This is the problem of expanding the playoffs to the point where any team that can put together a good month ends up in the chase. And thanks to MLS’s enforced parity, just about every team is capable of a hot 4-6 weeks…and also being awful for two months. Keep this in mind while watching the Marlins lineup try to string three singles together this evening or the Diamondbacks do anything this afternoon.
MLS nor Miami will say what Messi’s injury even is, lest anyone figure out just how long he might be out. Not exactly what you’d hear about just any other player. The league doesn’t have a ton of trust built up with its fanbase to begin with, and this isn’t helping. It’s not quite a con, but it’s closer than it should be for fans who were happy to shell out a lot of cash for even the chance of watching Messi. They’re going to get boned, and the league should just admit they’re going to get boned.
But then the league still hasn’t shaken the idea that the whole thing is kind of a scam, has it? Messi was their one vehicle to separate themselves from that theory. And now he’s part of another league sponsored con.
And on the even darker side of soccer:
That’s the mascot of Nantes’s rival, Rennes, going Terry Tate on the bird. But you gotta hand it to him, able to shake off having his head fall off. He’s ready for the NFL.
Original source here
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