Lionel Messi will play in Inter Miami’s friendly match against New York City FC Friday night, but it may not be for the entire 90 minutes.
The game at DRV PNK Stadium, being promoted as “Noche d’Or”, was organized to celebrate Messi’s record eighth Ballon d’Or trophy. It will include a pre-game ceremony during which the Argentine star will address fans and show off the trophy. MLS commissioner Don Garber and Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas will also speak.
Specialty food and beverage options will be available, including $8.88 Ballon d’Or Margaritas. The presentation will also feature gold fireworks and a post-game party.
“Of course, (Leo) will play because he is the star of this match,” said Inter Miami coach Tata Martino. “We want to be with him to celebrate his Ballon d’Or, but also it is an opportunity to return to competition, even though it’s a friendly, so people can see Leo and his teammates on the field one more time and bid farewell to this season.”
Inter Miami won the inaugural Leagues Cup tournament over the summer after Messi’s arrival, and reached the final of the U.S. Open Cup, but did not qualify for the MLS playoffs.
The team was scheduled to travel to China for a pair of exhibition matches this month, but the trip was canceled, so the club put together this match and celebration as an alternative.
Preseason training for 2024 will begin on January 10. Martino said the team is exploring the possibility of playing preseason friendlies abroad.
“Over the past few days we have been having conversations between the sporting side and the business side about all our needs, obviously with the sporting side as the priority,” Martino said. “We have looked at scenarios of having some of the preseason in Florida, some abroad, but nothing has been confirmed. We want to have a preseason of approximately 40 days.”
A friendly at home against Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys, the boyhood club of Messi and Martino, is being planned for mid-February.
After the Friday night friendly against NYCFC, the team will break until preseason camp opens. Some players will report to their national teams for next week’s FIFA international window.
Messi will head to Argentina for high-profile World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay on Nov. 16 and Brazil Nov. 21. Midfielder Diego Gomez was called up by Paraguay for its World Cup qualifiers against Chile Nov. 16 and Colombia Nov. 21.
Defender Kamal Miller was called into the Canadian national team for the upcoming Nations League quarterfinals. Canada will play against Jamaica Nov. 17 in Kingston and Nov. 21 in Toronto. Midfielder David Ruiz was called up by Honduras for its Nations League quarterfinals against Mexico Nov. 17 and Nov. 21.
Tickets for the Noche d’Or ceremony and friendly match start at $85 and are available through TicketMaster and at intermiamicf.com. The match will be televised on Apple TV through MLS Season Pass.