Messi Mania takes over Los Angeles on Sunday, as LAFC hosts Lionel Messi and Inter Miami, with a late kickoff set for 10 p.m. ET.
After leading Inter Miami to the Leagues Cup, Messi is trying to turn his new Major League Soccer club into a playoff team — no small task given how far down in the MLS standings Miami sits (currently 14th place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 4-10-13, ahead of only Toronto).
LAFC, meanwhile, currently sits in third place in the Western Conference with a record of 11-7-7. The top seven teams from each conference receive automatic bids to the playoffs, while the No. 8 and No. 9 teams play in a wild-card match.
As usual, Messi is one of the hottest tickets in town. According to the Los Angeles Times, secondary market tickets are averaging $717, which would be just “$31 less than what it would cost to attend every Los Angeles Chargers NFL home game at SoFi Stadium this season.” The other superstar commanding significant money on the secondary market tonight is none other than Beyoncé, who will play her second of four shows this evening at SoFi Stadium.
Suffice it to say, LA is the place to be tonight.
Messi and Miami are trying to bounce back after a scoreless draw vs. Nashville SC on Wednesday. Though it didn’t get the win, Nashville notched a victory in becoming the first club to hold Messi scoreless since he joined MLS in June. Surely, Messi himself is aware of this stat and will be determined to course correct.
Fatigue will be an interesting factor: Tonight will be Miami’s 11th game in 45 days and its ninth in 33 days.
USA TODAY Sports will have all the news before, during and after the match, so stay with our live blog for the latest updates.
Facundo Farias goal: Inter Miami 1, LAFC 0
Inter Miami is on the board, and it’s one of its talented youngsters finding the back of the net.
Facundo Farias connected on a sliding kick from the right side in the 14th minute after a pass from Tomás Avilés.
Messi ran into Farias’ hands to begin celebrating Inter Miami’s 1-0 lead in Los Angeles.
What time is Inter Miami vs. LAFC game today?
It’s a late one! Kickoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET since the teams play on the West Coast at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles. Get your coffee and popcorn ready.
How to watch Messi, Inter Miami vs. LAFC: TV, streaming
The Inter Miami vs. LAFC game can be streamed live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Starting lineups for Miami vs. LAFC
Starting lineups are out for both Miami and LAFC, just 45 minutes before the two teams kickoff in what should be a fun match.
And here’s the lineup for LAFC, with an interesting note: defender Giorgio Chiellini is getting the starting nod tonight, and he has history with Messi, having played for Juventus in Italy. Chiellini has previously joked that the best way to defend Messi is to “make the sign of the cross” and pray.
As expected, Messi won’t be the only celebrity in BMO Stadium tonight when Inter Miami visits LAFC.
The list of notable guests for tonight’s match is long and includes LeBron James, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, Ted Lasso (known in the real world as Jason Sudeikis), Leo DiCaprio, Selena Gomez, Tom Holland and Will Ferrell. And according to LAFC, that’s just a small sampling.
It seems everyone is caught up in Messi Mania.
How did Messi, Miami do in most recent match?
Messi and Miami have been on a tear since the GOAT joined MLS in June. But Wednesday against Nashville, they ran into a wall of sorts.
Nashville FC became the first MLS club to hold Miami scoreless since Messi joined the league, holding on for a 0-0 draw. (Remember, Miami beat Nashville in the Leagues Cup final, playing to a 1-1 draw before taking the title on PKs, 10-9). The match vs. Nashville was Miami’s 10th game in 40 days. How fresh are players’ legs at this point?
Safid Deen, USA TODAY Sports reporter: Messi scores twice and assists on another to win a thriller in LA. Inter Miami 3, LAFC 2
Alicia DelGallo, USA TODAY Sports senior editor: Miami falls behind again and relies on Messi and Josef Martinez to pull out the points. Inter Miami 2, LAFC 1
Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY Sports reporter: Messi gets back on track and scores, but a well-rested LAFC shows why they’re so dominant at home, winning handily. LAFC 3, Inter Miami 1
Jim Reineking, USA TODAY Sports editor:BMO Stadium will be electric for this one and the home team will respond, delivering Messi his first defeat with Miami and a crippling setback in the team’s late-season playoff push. LAFC 3, Inter Miami 2
The name Messi strikes fear into the hearts of numerous soccer players around the world, and understandably so. Widely considered the greatest player of all time, Messi is a magician on the field, an athlete so gifted he’s a threat every time he touches the ball.
But Carlos Vela, LAFC’s star forward, is familiar with Messi, to say the least.
Vela, who can do a little bit of everything as a forward, winger or midfielder and also stars for the Mexican national team, has matched up against Messi a whopping 18 times over their careers. Granted, Messi usually beats him — and has scored 13 goals in those meetings, while Vela has scored just one — but still, Vela won’t be intimidated, taking away an edge that Messi often has.
LAFC very tough to beat at home, outscoring opponents 18-1 lately
Beating LAFC in BMO Stadium in Los Angeles is no easy task — just ask the last four teams that have come in and been smoked by a combined score of 18-1. (No, that’s not a misprint.)
LAFC is widely considered one of the toughest road environments in MLS, up there with St. Louis and Cincinnati (which suffered its first home loss Saturday in a 1-0 defeat vs. Orlando City SC). Expect a frenzied 22,00-strong crowd Saturday in BMO Stadium, which could very well give LAFC an edge. Something else playing in LAFC’s favor is rest: While Miami played Wednesday, LAFC did not.