Nashville SC vs. Inter Miami: Combined XI for Leagues Cup 2023 Final


The stage is set: Nashville SC host Inter Miami CF on Saturday evening for the Leagues Cup Final (9 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

As a fun thought exercise, what would a Combined XI for these two MLS finalists look like? We've opted for a more traditional 4-3-3 formation, and decisions weren't easy.

Both clubs are already into the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup via their Leagues Cup performance and have knocked off Liga MX sides en route to the title match.

We all remember Lionel Messi's iconic free kick in his debut game. But we may forget what kept things close against Liga MX's Cruz Azul (hint: it was Drake Callender's seven-save night). This rising US international goalkeeper is one of the better shot-stoppers in MLS and deserves more shine.

Joe Willis or Elliot Panicco? Gary Smith has a choice to make for Nashville, opting for the tried-and-true veteran or their PK specialist.

Jordi Alba is one of the game's best-ever attacking left backs. Let's not overthink this (although shoutout to Nashville's Daniel Lovitz, who is perpetually underrated).

My mind was split between Miami's center-back duo of Sergii Kryvtsov and Kamal Miller, but I'm making a gut call and going with the former.

One add-on: Does one of them get bumped once U22 Initiative signing Tomás Avilés gets worked into the lineup? Or maybe it becomes a CB trio with wingbacks?

Give me Air Zimmerman seven days a week and twice on Saturday.

With all respect to Nashville's Shaq Moore (1g/0a), we're going with the other US international right back who will feature in Saturday's Leagues Cup Final.

DeAndre Yedlin (0g/2a), who passed captain duties along to Messi, brings a veteran presence that's an underrated part of Inter Miami's summertime rise.

Sergio Busquets
Defensive Midfielder · Inter Miami CF

Color me not surprised: Sergio Busquets, one of the game's greatest-ever deep-lying midfielders, has stepped into MLS and used his elite tactical awareness, passing range and soccer IQ to spark a Leagues Cup Final run.

Dax McCarty
Central Midfielder · Nashville SC

Highlighted by a three-assist performance in Nashville's semifinal rout of Minnesota, Dax McCarty has turned back the clock during this tournament run.

Can the 36-year-old veteran, one of Nashville's first-ever players, end it with more silverware for his esteemed MLS career? If you need reminding: Dax is at 460 regular-season games!

Hany Mukhtar
Attacking Midfielder · Nashville SC

Yes, there were the memes calling Messi the "Argentine Mukhtar." But don't let that detract from how elite Hany is – the dude is the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP and Golden Boot presented by Audi winner for a reason.

If this goal counted (it should have IMO), Hany would have 3g/5a in Leagues Cup:

Whatever nickname you prefer – we're partial to The Finnish Di Maria – no Inter Miami player has benefited more from playing with Messi more than Robert Taylor. He has 4g/5a in the Herons' run to the final, offering an ideal north-south/direct complement to the Argentine superstar.

If you're so inclined, check out this Wall Street Journal piece on Taylor's rise:

Sam Surridge
Center Forward · Nashville SC

Three substitute appearances, three goals – all in just 117 minutes. Sam Surridge, Nashville's new DP striker, certainly looks the part since arriving from Premier League side Nottingham Forest. Now, could he get a first start in the Leagues Cup Final?

This might be harsh on Josef Martínez, who was awesome in Miami's semifinal win over Philadelphia. He has three goals in Leagues Cup (though two are from the penalty spot).

I'll just encourage you to watch this:

And this:

Lionel Messi has 9g/4a in his first six Inter Miami games. Just GOAT things.