How Can Lionel Messi Revive Inter Miami’s MLS Playoffs Hopes

Lionel Messi, the talismanic Argentinian forward, finds himself amidst challenging times with Inter Miami. A third absence from a league game saw the team playing to a stalemate against formidable rivals, Orlando City. Since Messi’s July debut, Inter Miami has been defeated only once in 15 games, witnessing the legend add the Leagues Cup to his staggering tally of 44 trophies. Not to mention, the team has also made it to the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. But with the MLS Cup in sight, the road looks bumpy, especially considering Messi’s current fitness.

Tata Martino, Inter Miami’s coach, shared that Messi would be benched for “at least three games”, putting the team in a precarious position in the MLS playoff race. This absence coincided with Argentina’s participation in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. Messi sat out during the games against Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United, and Orlando City. And with the upcoming FIFA international match windows, Messi might also be absent for matches against FC Cincinnati and Charlotte FC.

So, what’s the actual scenario for Inter Miami in the MLS playoff race? With 18 teams advancing to the MLS postseason (nine from each conference), Inter Miami’s chances seem to be dwindling. They have garnered 32 points from 29 games and currently sit five points shy of the ninth-place spot, occupied by New York City FC.

Historical data suggests a requirement of at least 47 points for a safe berth into the playoffs, meaning Inter Miami would need to secure victory in all of their upcoming matches. The odds might seem stacked against them, but it’s not all bleak. Remember the astonishing turnaround of D.C. United in 2018? Spearheaded by Wayne Rooney, they secured 34 points in their final 16 matches. Similarly, the Seattle Sounders also pulled off an impressive 11-2 record to ensure their playoff spot in the same year.

Inter Miami’s remaining fixtures see them locking horns with NYCFC, Chicago Fire FC, FC Cincinnati, and two back-to-back matches with Charlotte FC. Their face-off against NYCFC could potentially be the decider for both teams, given the latter’s precarious position in the ninth spot. While Chicago Fire seems to be a team in crisis, FC Cincinnati, having already ensured a playoff spot, remains a force to reckon with. The two scheduled matches against Charlotte FC, a team with similar aspirations as Miami, promise to be nail-biting encounters.

As of now, the MLS playoff scenario is already heating up with FC Cincinnati, Orlando City, Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United, and New England Revolution sealing their playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

To summarize, while Inter Miami’s chances for the playoffs seem slim, the beauty of football lies in its unpredictability. With Messi in their ranks and several decisive matches lined up, it’s going to be an exhilarating finish to the MLS regular season.

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