·8 June 2023
·8 June 2023
Major League Soccer has been a notable part of the football landscape for over a decade now with many big names choosing to end their careers there.
It currently houses the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Lorenzo Insigne and Christian Benteke, while legends like Thierry Henry and David Villa have also played in the United States.
However, arguably the biggest name in football history is now due to touch down in MLS.
and a fresh focus will now be placed on football - or soccer - in America thanks to the arrival of the World Cup winner.
He joins an Inter Miami team sat right at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Phil Neville was recently dismissed by club co-owner David Beckham, so it's hardly a steady ship Messi is joining.
A return home to Barcelona was scuppered by the Catalan club's poor finances while offers also came in from Saudi Arabia, but he has chosen a route he thinks will keep him at the right level of fitness for the next Copa America with Argentina.
While there are fewer than you'd expect, there are a handful of familiar faces Messi will come up against when he starts playing for Inter Miami. Here are the former Barcelona and current Argentine players he will come up against in MLS.
Riqui Puig is a Barcelona academy graduate / Chris Gardner/GettyImages
Having joined Barcelona's academy in 2013, he spent nine years at the club overall and made 42 La Liga appearances. As is often the case for any young midfielder at Barcelona who shows promise, there was a period when many thought he could be a key first-team player for years to come.
That is not how things panned out and as part of the effort to save money and create space in the wage budget for other players in the summer of 2022, Puig was shipped out to LA Galaxy on a free transfer. It is not common for a player to join MLS from Europe in their early 20s, but Puig chose that over possible European moves.
He has started 93% of LA Galaxy's games so far this season but they find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference. If the form of Inter Miami and LA Galaxy carries on in this way, neither will make it to the final series and Puig and Messi will not get to face each other.
Thiago Almada is one of the hottest properties in MLS / Shaun Clark/GettyImages
A favourite of many Football Manager players, Thiago Almada is a talented attacking midfielder who is likely to end up in Europe in the very near future. He came through at Argentinian team Velez Sarsfield and top clubs like Manchester United have been very heavily linked.
Instead, he chose to head north and sign for Atlanta United in Georgia for a fee of €14.55m. This surprised a lot of people, but he has posted impressive attacking numbers and will be a more rounded and experienced footballer if and when he decides to return to Europe.
He got six goals and seven assists in his first MLS campaign in 2022 across 29 games but has already beaten that record in 2023. In the first 14 games, he has got seven goals and seven assists, further showing that he could well be on the move soon if he continues to impress.
Due to the wealth of attacking talent in the Argentina squad, Almada has only made three appearances, scoring in a friendly against Panama while also playing six minutes of the 2022 World Cup in the group stage against Poland.
Inter Miami beat Atlanta 2-1 earlier this season and Messi and Almada are set to do battle on September 17 in Georgia.
Luciano Acosta has spent many years in MLS / Jeff Dean/GettyImages
This one is cheating slightly as Luciano Acosta has never actually been in the same team as Lionel Messi. That being said, he is a prominent Argentinian player in MLS and someone Messi is likely to be familiar with.
The attacking midfielder has been at FC Cincinnati since March 2021 and captains the team. He has grabbed 25 goals and 23 assists during his two-and-a-half-seasons with the Ohio club. Messi is due to face Acosta on October 8 in a home game.
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