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What you need to know

Soccer Saturday

Messi heads to New York, Atlanta United host Nashville, Trillium Cup, Dallas-Austin, Orlando in St. Louis, it’s all here. Check out the full schedule and prepare for one of the best 7:30 pm ET time slots of the year so far.

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Your Saturday Storylines

You have to watch MLS 360 tonight. That's not a recommendation, that’s an order. You need MLS 360 tonight. The 7:30 pm ET slot has eight games tonight and all eight have something worth tuning in for. Some have a little more worth tuning in for than others, though. Here are the biggest storylines to keep an eye on at 7:30. Experienced MLS-watching veterans should be able to handle the rest of the night on their own.

Messi versus Tolkin

Inter Miami head to Red Bull Arena tonight. I’m particularly giddy about this one. The Red Bulls' ultra-pressing style has allowed them to make some of the best teams in the league look like they’re being forced to play an entirely different sport. It’s always felt like they could take on prime Guardiola-era Barcelona with 11 kids who just graduated from Dartmouth and knock them off their game. Tonight is as close as we’ll ever get.

Don’t get it twisted. I’m not convinced the Red Bulls will suddenly make Miami look like… uh… well, Miami from two months ago. But every new opponent and location for this Miami team feels like a fascinating experiment. Like those videos of a hydraulic press attempting to crush yet another object. Sometimes it’s going to struggle with a certain object more than others, but, in the end, it always seems to squeeze whatever’s under it into oblivion. There’s always some hope though the entire machine might break in spectacular fashion. It never does, but still, sometimes the tension builds enough to make you think it could.

There’s a chance the Red Bulls could be the object that finally breaks the machine. Inter Miami are coming into this one on short rest. They’ve been grinding for the last month or so through a Leagues Cup schedule and a midweek US Open Cup game that went to PKs. It's never ideal to come in with heavy legs against New York. And definitely not ideal to come in with heavy legs against a New York team that will be rearing to give Miami their best shot.

Every game from here on out is essentially a mini-final for the Herons. They need to be at a near-impossible pace to make the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Winning the first of their remaining 12 games won’t come easy… I mean, at least there’s a chance it won’t. Right?

What’s real in Atlanta?

Atlanta United looked the best they’ve looked in weeks (months? years???) against Seattle on Sunday. The Five Stripes, powered by new midfielder Tristan Muyumba, rolled to a 2-0 win out West. Tonight, they’ll not only have Muyumba and new winger Xande Silva available, they’ll also be able to put new DP winger Saba Lobjanidze into the fray. This team could finally be coming good.

Nashville looked the best they’ve looked in weeks (months? ever???) in Leagues Cup. The Coyotes, powered by their typical defensive solidity and an attack heightened by new DP forward Sam Surridge, rolled to one of the most impressive runs in MLS history before coming up a penalty kick short of a trophy. Tonight they’ll take the field with Surridge in an MLS game for the first time. After entering Leagues Cup on a run of five losses in six games, this team could have turned things around for good.

Was what we saw in Seattle what we’ll see tonight in Atlanta? Was the Nashville that powered their way through Cincinnati, Club América and Monterrey the Nashville that will show up the rest of the way in the league? I’m genuinely unsure on both counts. But, if both teams show up as the recent and best versions of themselves, we should be in for an outstanding game, one that will continue to shape the all-out brawl happening from spots two to seven in the East.

The everything else

FC Cincinnati take on NYCFC, looking to get back on pace for a record-setting season and NYCFC look to finally start building some positive momentum. Columbus face Toronto in the Trillium Cup, which doesn’t mean it will be close, but it does mean we get to keep saying the words “Trillium Cup,” and that makes me laugh. CF Montréal take on New England as CF Montréal fight for a Wild Card spot and New England take on a brave new world without Djordje Petrovic and Brandon Bye. Orlando City face St. Louis in what should be one of the best games of the day as Orlando try to keep pace with the rest of the top of the East and St. Louis try to hold off LAFC for the top spot in the West. LAFC will try to keep pace with St. Louis as they take on Charlotte on a cross-country road trip. Y’all do your best to keep up with all this tonight, ok?

Other Things

Austin FC's Q2 Stadium set to host USMNT Nations League quarterfinal: Austin FC's Q2 Stadium will host the US men's national team's 2023/24 Nations League quarterfinal home leg on Nov. 16. The winner of the two-legged series, against a still undetermined opponent, will advance to the Nations Leagues Finals and qualify directly for the 2024 Copa América – South America's preeminent international tournament that will take place in the United States and feature 10 Conmebol nations and six Concacaf guest nations.

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Good luck out there. Find the biggest crowd you can.