How to watch and stream
- Saturday, August 26 | 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT
- Red Bull Arena | Harrison, New Jersey
Messi and Miami have already won Leagues Cup, earned a 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup spot and will host the US Open Cup final on Sept. 27 against Houston Dynamo FC. It's hard to imagine a more successful start to this new era – all as Messi tallies 10 goals and six assists in eight games across all competitions.
But now comes perhaps their biggest challenge yet: climbing into the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs field, starting with this showdown on the outskirts of the Big Apple.
- Form: 5W-0L-3D in regulation since Messi joined
- Record: 5W-14L-3D, 18 points
- Standings: 15th in Eastern Conference
If there's one thing we've learned from Messi's first six weeks with Inter Miami, it's to never count out the 2022 FIFA World Cup champion and seven-time Ballon d'Or winner. He has repeatedly willed his team to victory, starting with his Hollywood-esque free-kick golazo against Cruz Azul and continuing through Wednesday's two-assist heroics to topple FC Cincinnati in the USOC semifinals.
Now? Messi, alongside former FC Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, will look to start a steep climb up the Eastern Conference table and into the playoff field. The Herons, trying to dig out of a pre-Messi era hole, are in last place (15th) and need to reach ninth place to qualify for the postseason – meaning they have 12 games to make up a 14-point gap before Decision Day (Oct. 21).
To pull off this mini-miracle, history tells us Messi and Miami will likely need at least 25 points or eight or more wins to place into the Wild Card round. That leaves virtually no room for error, and head coach Tata Martino will surely have to soon rotate his lineup as mental and/or physical fatigue settles in (Miami have played eight games in 34 days). That's where the young legs of Benjamin Cremaschi, Facundo Farías and more could prove beneficial.
It's a Herculean task for Messi and Co., who have shown anything is possible. How far will those limits be tested?
- Previous: 1-0 win over D.C. United
- Record: 7W-9L-8D, 29 points
- Standings: 11th in Eastern Conference
The Red Bulls hope to extend their league-record playoff streak to 14 seasons; they have 10 games left to make up a three-point gap and vault into/above ninth place in the East. That sounds doable, though head coach Troy Lesesne's squad is not without its flaws.
New York have scored just 23 goals this season and count midfielder Frankie Amaya (four goals) as their leading scorer. Much of that final-third inefficiency boils down to 2022 leading scorer Lewis Morgan battling injuries and DP attackers Luquinhas and Dante Vanzeir missing the mark, but it's also a collective struggle to turn chances into goals.
The good news? RBNY boast a top-end defense that's allowed just 26 goals this season (bottom-fifth in MLS), using their high-pressing system/tactics to limit opponents and compress the game. That provides a rock-solid foundation, though stopping Miami's Messi-led attack is an entirely different proposition.
With the regular-season clock ticking, can the Red Bulls provide a blueprint for slowing down this Messi-powered ride?