Lionel Messi is scheduled to play for Inter Miami on synthetic turf in Major League Soccer, but the league’s commissioner has taken action to allay any injury concerns.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has joined the Florida-based team co-owned by Manchester United star David Beckham, and he will make his team debut on Friday against Cruz Azul in a Leagues Cup match.
A number of MLS teams, including the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Atlanta United, New England Revolution, and Charlotte FC, play on hybrid pitches that combine grass with reinforced roots and synthetic fibers. The ex-Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain forward will get to play on grass at Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium, however.
Here is a relatable tweet about the news:
🗣️ “The fact that I am going to play in the United States, my mentality, my head is not going to change.”
Lionel Messi says he’s not going to the MLS to relax and he will be trying his hardest to achieve there. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/s8caqWmVDc
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) July 14, 2023
Will Messi’s Arrival Lead to More Natural Grass in MLS?
When asked if clubs could replace their fields in the wake of Messi’s arrival in America by The Athletic, MLS commissioner Don Garber responded, “That’s going to be the decision of every club when they do travel to those stadiums that don’t have natural grass.
Such surfaces have been known to cause injury problems in the past, especially for those unaccustomed to playing on them. Although there is a lot of work to be done to figure all of that out, my expectations are that they will act in that way. We have been able to install natural grass in the stadiums where MLS sponsors many international matches, but we have never done so for a regular season match.
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Messi’s Comfort a Priority for MLS
While Garber is quick to point out that fellow World Cup winners before him, such as French and Brazilian icons Thierry Henry and Kaka, had no issue playing on artificial pitches, MLS is doing everything it can to make Messi as comfortable as possible in the United States.
The fact that they are not playing on grass, he continued, “I believe, intrigues or worries a lot of foreign stars that come to Major League Soccer. Then you witness some of the greatest players in the history of the sport, including the Henrys and Kakas of the world, who competed on artificial grass. Therefore, I believe that process will need to develop gradually.
Messi and Inter Miami have reached an agreement on a two-and-a-half-year contract that will keep him with the team through the end of the MLS season in 2025. If all parties so choose, they can also agree on an extension for 2026, though the Argentine icon has hinted that he won’t play in the World Cup finals that year, which will also be co-hosted by the United States.
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