There are unlikely to be too many career firsts left for 36-year-old Lionel Messi but there is potentially one on the horizon for him with Inter Miami at DRV PNK Stadium later this month. The Argentina international will participate in the U.S. Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo on Sept. 27 with Tata Martino's side targeting their second piece of silverware since Messi's arrival. You can watch that game live on CBS Sports Network and Paramount+
The ex-Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain man helped Inter Miami to the Leagues Cup which has already secured continental competition for next season and the U.S. Open Cup is potentially next. Messi and his new teammates are up against it to secure a Major League Soccer playoff berth as they come from deep in the Eastern Conference but two titles in a few months is possible regardless.
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Messi did not taste domestic cup success with PSG in the Coupe de France despite two Ligue 1 and one Trophee des Champions triumphs but he did win the Copa del Rey seven times with Barca. It might not contribute towards continental soccer like domestic cups in Europe do, but the U.S. Open Cup is America's oldest and most historic competition -- it is absolutely worth winning.
Until Martino and Messi lead Inter Miami to a playoff berth, the assumption will be that next year is likely to be a push for MLS Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup glory along with the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Such targets would make a U.S. Open Cup run less of a priority so it makes sense to go all-out to win it now against Houston Dynamo for what would be the club's second trophy win.
There is one record that Messi will not set should Inter Miami go all the way and be crowned champions in Fort Lauderdale -- the legendary Argentine will not be the first Ballon d'Or winner to taste U.S. Open Cup success. In fact, Messi is not the first Ballon d'Or winner to compete in the competition having been beaten to it by a few of MLS's most famous names from yesteryear.
The Brazilian did not win the U.S. Open Cup during his three-year stay with Orlando City but he did feature in a few different editions. Back in 2015, Kaka was a quarterfinalist as Orlando were beaten 3-1 by Chicago Fire who then fell in the semifinals to Philadelphia Union. The 2007 Ballon d'Or winner was also involved in the 2017 edition as the Lions fell to NASL outfit Miami FC 3-1 in the fourth round at home. Ironically, should Messi and Inter Miami win it this season, they will be taking over from last year's winners Orlando as the titleholders.
Another historic name to have taken to the field in the U.S. Open Cup is 1990 Ballon d'Or winner Lothar Matthaus who enjoyed a stint with New York MetroStars later in his storied career. The legendary German reached the semifinals in 2000 but his side lost out 3-2 to Miami Fusion with Chicago Fire going on to ultimately win it.
That brings us on to 1994 Ballon d'Or winner Stoichkov who was part of that very same Fire side which ended up winning it all 23 years ago. Not only did the legendary Bulgarian and his Chicago teammates see off the Fusion, Stoichkov scored one of the two goals on the day to secure the title which is what Messi will aspire to do with Inter Miami later this month. The former Barcelona man is the only one to have done it -- but Messi could be the second in the coming weeks.