The second half of Inter Miami CF’s 2023 season was a Hollywood-esque story, bringing a worldwide spotlight to an MLS club that’s dreamed big since debuting four years ago.
Now, with their Messi-led era in full swing, the Herons are eager for what 2024 brings about.
“We have seen what this team is capable of in the summer when we were firing all on cylinders and everyone is out there,” chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson said in Monday’s year-end media availability. “We've had some beautiful football, control in games.
“But in saying that, we want more. We will improve this roster. In 2024 we have high hopes and we will compete in multiple competitions. We will work tirelessly to evaluate the changes that need to be made and achieve our goals in bringing success to our fans and Inter Miami.”
This time of year, when decision-makers adjust their roster by scouting the domestic and international markets, has already linked a high-profile name to Inter Miami: Luis Suárez.
While reports indicate Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer will arrive this winter after competing in Brazil’s top flight – a move that would add to an FC Barcelona reunion in South Florida already featuring Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba – Henderson didn’t get into specifics.
“He's currently with Grêmio, so we don't want to comment on a player who's not on our roster,” Henderson said of Suárez. “He is another player that's always been linked with our team and it's great to have great players around the world connected with Inter Miami and wanting to come here.”
However, Henderson did note Inter Miami will be busy next year. They could easily play 45+ matches while juggling numerous competitions, and players will likely have international opportunities with the Copa América, Summer Olympics, Euros and Concacaf Nations League all next summer.
That congested schedule, in turn, necessitates IMCF being several players deep at every position. And there are several avenues within MLS’ roster rules to enhance the group.
“The players that we have on our roster now make it a lot easier to go and recruit outside the league and inside the league,” Henderson said. “Who wouldn't want to play with the greatest players of all time in their positions? That helps us.
“There are free agents out there and there is trade talk. Teams are asking for players on our team. These are conversations that are ongoing and some of the work that our recruitment staff will have. Just like every other signing, we will stick to the seven steps that we take in every player signing to make sure it's the right one to add for us.”
As Inter Miami canvas the transfer market, their first-ever Concacaf Champions Cup appearance is on the horizon. That international competition, which they qualified for as Leagues Cup champions, will begin by mid-February and impact the club’s to-be-announced preseason plans.
“That puts you on a global stage to have success,” said Henderson, alluding to the FIFA Club World Cup opportunity CCC affords. “Only one [MLS] team has won that tournament with Seattle. Other teams have come very close.”
One development, per Henderson, is Miami plan to invest in their medical and performance departments to help with player recovery and workload management. It’s all with an eye on maximizing Messi & Co.’s first full year in MLS.
“The way Messi trains and leads our team and the example he sets, it's extraordinary,” Henderson said. “He comes out in training and he is focused and has a very high standard [where] he helps brings the players up and the level up. So I think we're going to get a big boost there from our veteran players who are going to help the team and want to win.”
Another key ingredient, Henderson said, will be their U22 Initiative signings Tomás Avilés, Facundo Farías and Diego Gómez growing in responsibility. The same framework applies to homegrown stars Benjamin Cremaschi and David Ruíz, who were fast-tracked for significant roles in '23. And the club's seeking a better balance between attack and defense to ensure rising US international goalkeeper Drake Callender is putting out fewer fires.
But the common denominator is the GOAT, who just won a world-record eighth Ballon d'Or, and his teammates feeling more settled alongside whatever additions arrive.
“I have found with players coming into the league, if they come in the summer window they're much better the next year because they understand the league, they understand the travel, they understand going to these away stadiums and playing and managing their bodies," Henderson said. "You usually get a better performance in year two.”