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Messi’s Debut for Inter Miami

Aaron White
Written by Aaron White
July 20, 2023
Messi’s Debut for Inter Miami

In 2018, Inter Miami joined the MLS with an ambitious idea led by David Beckham. To attract the world’s best football players, in a country that called the sport soccer.

After an increased interest in the sport due to the young Americans reaching the knockout phase in the World Cup, it will be interesting to see how the 2023 MLS season unfolds as they have attracted not just a sporting superstar, but possibly the greatest athlete to ever step foot on this planet.

The seven-time Ballon D’or winner makes his debut on July 21st against LIGA MX side, Cruz Azul, in the opening match of Leagues Cup. All 47 clubs in North America will compete as they pause their respective seasons from July 21 to August 19th to battle for the title mirroring a World Cup style tournament.

Leo’s impact on the club has already shown, as merchandise and ticket sales have skyrocketed and the cheapest ticket for tomorrow’s battle starts at $220.

While his future might be uncertain at Miami and within the realms of American soccer, we should be privileged to witness the presence of the greatest player of all time gracing a domestic league.

Given this perspective, Messi’s move to Inter Miami deserves more attention and possible praise as sponsorship opportunities that were previously unavailable to him in Europe should now come his way.

Inter Miami’s Lackluster Season

In this recently founded tournament where LIGA MX teams will battle MLS teams mid-season, it will be interesting to see if teams decide to play a full starting squad or rotate bench pieces in for some playing time.

As for Lionel Messi’s new squad, the team has struggled mightily this season, winning just 5 games in 22 games played. The good news for Miami fans and Messi fans alike is that the team is 4-2-5 at home.

The team is an older squad, with just two players under 25 years of age playing in 1,000 minutes or more this season which might make it tough for Lionel to play make like he did in Paris and Barcelona as there were a slew of young talent alongside him on the wings and down the middle of the field.

The team usually plays a 3-4-3, although the formation has been mixed and matched this season between losing spurts. This means Messi has a good chance of playing a CF role with the ability to pass and follow to the wing positions, where he is extremely comfortable to make cuts inside or take a defender one-on-one.

With a solid striking option in Venezuelan 30-year-old Josef Martinez (6 goals in 15 starts), I’d expect Leo to create a handful of chances in his opening match although the lack of team chemistry could create a boundary at times.

However, as a team that is 5-3-14 on the season, it’s hard for me to believe that the coaching staff won’t urge their players to put the ball at Messi’s feet nearly every time they attempt to penetrate the box.

Oddly enough, smaller markets are dominating the Eastern Conference this season in MLS play with Miami residing in last place while FC Cincinnati, New England, Nashville, and Columbus all sit inside the top 6 in the conference.

Not only is Inter Miami in last place in their conference, but they also have the least amount of attendance per game. David Beckham and company's move to acquire Leo changed these two key issues immediately and the squad must be thrilled to play alongside the greatest of all time, boosting morale of everyone involved in the club.

PrizePicks Prop Bets on Messi

So, let’s ask whether we should take the over or under for goals, assists, shots on target, etc. for the GOAT in his American debut. Although we didn’t hear a ton about him in Ligue 1 French play, a casual 16 goals and 16 assists in 32 matches leads me to believe he’ll have no shortage of impact starting tomorrow.

The team, led by fullback DeAndre Yedlin, newly acquired midfielder Sergio Busquets, goalscoring forward Josef Martinez, and the superstar Lionel Messi, faces fairly even odds against Cruz Azul. However, considering Messi's extraordinary playmaking abilities, there are undoubtedly some props that must be placed favoring Messi’s overs.

Best Bet: OVER 1.5 Shots on Target

Messi had 55 shots on target this season with PSG including a 43% shot on target percentage which mirrors his 2016-17 season with Barcelona where some would say he was in his prime.

Without many viable attacking options on this Miami squad, expect Leo to try and get going early with a few shots taken from outside the box.

I’d also expect the team to allow Leo to take all free kicks and penalties if the opportunity presents itself, meaning an automatic shot on target in that case. This is the safest bet on the table in this Friday matchup and the one I’d say to smash on PrizePicks.

Best Bet: OVER 0.5 Assists

Although this bet isn’t shown on PrizePicks just yet, Messi’s playmaking props should be hammered in Game 1. His creativity will be unguardable by Cruz Azul, who haven’t faced a player of this caliber in their squad’s history.

Most likely playing in the middle of the field, chances will come in chunks as Leo is at his best creating opportunities for others.

A bet that includes a Josef Martinez goal and a Leo Messi assist could provide value as that veteran combination will dominate at home in tomorrow’s match.

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