Lionel Messi expected to make Inter Miami debut vs. Cruz Azul

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – International soccer superstar Lionel Messi is set to make his Inter Miami debut on Friday.

Messi’s Major League Soccer and team debut will come against Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup opener at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

According to team officials, about 21,000 tickets in a newly expanded stadium have been sold, though thousands were still available for resale on secondary markets Friday morning.

Messi was introduced to fans on Sunday and practiced for the first time as a member of the club Tuesday.

The timing of Messi’s arrival comes at a unique time in the season for Inter Miami and MLS.

The league is on a month-long break from regular-season play to participate in the Intercontinental Leagues Cup, a 47-team World Cup-style tournament that includes every club from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.

Both teams enter Friday’s match without much success this season. Inter Miami has the fewest points in the MLS standings while Cruz Azul is the only team in the Mexican league yet to record a standings point through the season’s first three matches.

According to StubHub. the cheapest ticket is priced at $176, while tickets in the front row at midfield are listed at $8,300 as of Friday morning.

Inter Miami Head Coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino said he will decide if and when Messi will enter the game. The team still working on their new dynamic, but Cruz Azul is on guard.

“We know how clever he is and with one play he can finish the game,” said Cruz Azul centre-back Carlos Salcedo.

A big surprise was also in store for Javier Fernandez.

Fernandez, a custodian and youth soccer coach at North Twin Lakes Elementary School received two free tickets to tonight’s game.

“It’s an honor on behalf of my family to accept this invitation to see the champion of champions,” Fernandez told Local 10 News on Friday.

Local 10 News also spoke with fans that were tailgating outside of DRV PNK Stadium, who said they were planning on watching the games from their phones.

“Our heart is with him inside,” said Messi fan Maria Gil.

“How does it feel to bring your boys here today?” asked Local 10 News reporter Christian De La Rosa.

“Awesome, that’s awesome, that’s touching the sky already,” said Messi fan Gabriel Ordoñez.

She and many other diehard fans they’re expecting a lot of goals from Messi in his team debut.

The match is expected to start at 8 p.m.

About the Authors:

Ryan Mackey is our newest digital journalist at WPLG. He is New York born and South Florida raised.

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.