Is Lionel Messi playing tonight?

Inter Miami CF and Chicago Fire FC are in the thick of a six-team chase for the final two available playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

It would have been a massive boost for Miami if Lionel Messi could return to the field after missing his team’s last three games (one of which was the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final).

However, Messi is dealing with a lingering leg injury that has kept the 2022 World Cup champion and seven-time Ballon d’Or winner on the sidelines for much of the last month, including Wednesday night’s game at Soldier Field.

Messi’s recent injury woes have created consternation among ticket buyers in cities where Inter Miami comes to visit as fans are eager to get a glimpse of arguably the greatest soccer player of all time.

More than 61,000 tickets (or roughly more than three times the attendance at Game 1 of the Texas Rangers-Tampa Bay Rays AL wild-card series at Tropicana Field) had been sold for the game at Soldier Field, which is near capacity. With Messi’s doubtful playing status, the Chicago Fire announced on Tuesday that it would be offering all fans in the crowd a credit toward season tickets for next season, or for a future match.

Follow along as USA TODAY Sports provides live updates of the Chicago Fire-Inter Miami game:

How to watch Messi’s Inter Miami match today vs. Chicago Fire FC

The Inter Miami-Chicago Fire FC match at 8:30 p.m. ET is available on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

Starting lineups: Lionel Messi not available for Inter Miami

As expected, Lionel Messi is neither starting nor available off the bench.

Here is the starting 11 for Inter Miami:

Jordi Alba, Messi’s former FC Barcelona teammate, also is not available.

Inter Miami has collected more points in the two away matches that Messi has played in (6) than it has in 13 away games without him (5).

Here is the starting 11 for Chicago Fire FC:

Zherdan Shaqiri represented Switzerland at the 2022 World Cup. Kei Kamara, the team’s leading goal scorer with five, starts the game on the bench.

Chicago enters Wednesday night’s game having won three of its five previous meetings against Miami.

Has Lionel Messi practiced with Inter Miami during his injury stint?

Lionel Messi participated in Inter Miami’s practice on Tuesday before the team headed to Chicago for Wednesday night’s game. After the practice, Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino reiterated Messi’s day-to-day playing status.

“If it doesn’t happen, it would be taken as, ‘Well, today I look like the biggest ticket seller in the MLS. It might have something to do with the sale of tickets,’ But no, we are concerned about the players,” Martino said. “I make a very serious mistake if I say something hastily. That’s why I avoid exact times. I understand your desire to know the exact times, but if I had the exact times I would say so, but I don’t have them either.”

Which games has Lionel Messi missed?

Following a statement win over reigning league champion Los Angeles FC in Los Angeles on Sept. 3 — in which Lionel Messi played the entire game — he has missed five Inter Miami games.

After playing (and scoring the winning goal) in Argentina’s 2026 World Cup qualifier against Ecuador on Sept. 7, Messi sat out Argentina’s World Cup qualifier on Sept. 12 against Bolivia. In the interim, he missed Inter Miami’s 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 9.

Messi returned to Miami after the FIFA international break, but did not dress for his team’s 5-2 defeat against Atlanta United on Sept. 16. He played briefly in a 4-0 win over Toronto FC on Sept. 20, left the game in the first half due to fatigue and hasn’t played since.

With Lionel Messi doubtful to play, Chicago Fire offers credit to fans

The Chicago Fire appeared to be well aware that it could be a disappointing night for many in attendance at Soldier Field for the game against Inter Miami, with some of those fans having paid well over face value for a chance at catching a glimpse of Lionel Messi in action.

With Messi’s doubtful playing status, the Chicago Fire announced that it would be offering all fans in the crowd a credit toward season tickets for next season, or for a future match.

What to know about Chicago Fire FC

The Chicago Fire entered MLS as an expansion team in 1998 and went on to win MLS Cup (as well as the U.S. Open Cup) under coach Bob Bradley.

The Chicago Fire are the only major U.S. men’s professional sports franchise to win its league championship in its inaugural season. (Though, to be fair, MLS only had 12 teams then. More recently, the Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final as an expansion team during the 2017-18 NHL season.)

The Chicago Fire reached the MLS Cup three times in its first six seasons (losing in 2000 to the Kansas City Wizards and 2003 to the San Jose Earthquakes). Since 2010, however, the Chicago Fire have been on a real struggle bus. The team has qualified for the MLS playoffs just twice over the last 13 seasons. If the Chicago Fire manage to pull out a victory over Inter Miami on Wednesday night, it would reach the 40-point mark for just the third time in the last 10 seasons. Yikes!

Where does Inter Miami stand in MLS playoff race?

As Messi deals with a lingering leg injury, Inter Miami’s postseason hopes are hanging by a thread. Luckily for Miami, there’s a collection of middling clubs vying for the Eastern Conference’s final two available playoff spots. Six teams are within five points of the conference’s last two remaining playoff spots.

Inter Miami enters Wednesday’s MLS Matchday 36 sitting in 13th place in the 15-team conference, with 33 points from 30 games played. New York City FC (38 points) and CF Montréal (37 points) currently sit in the final two playoff spots (eighth and ninth, respectively) in the standings. Also ahead of Inter Miami in the standings are D.C. United (37 points), Chicago Fire FC (37 points) and the New York Red Bulls (34 points). Each of those teams has played at least one more game than Miami, helping the Herons’ postseason chances.

What is Inter Miami’s remaining 2023 schedule?

The rest of Inter Miami’s matches and the rest of MLS are available to watch via the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

MLS playoff picture

These would be the MLS playoff matchups through the first round, if the season ended before Wednesday night’s games …


Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati, Columbus Crew, Orlando City, Nashville SC, New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union have clinched playoff spots. FC Cincinnati has clinched the Supporters’ Shield.

Wild-card match:

Round 1 (best-of-three series)

  • FC Cincinnati (1) vs. New York City FC (8)-CF Montréal (9) winner

  • Orlando City SC (2) vs. Nashville SC (7)

  • New England Revolution (3) vs. Atlanta United (6)

  • Philadelphia Union (4) vs. Columbus Crew (5)


St. Louis City SC has clinched a playoff spot and the No. 1 seed in the conference.

Wild-card match

Round 1 (best-of-three series)

What is the MLS playoff format and schedule?

A total of 18 teams qualify for the MLS playoffs — the top nine finishers from each conference.

The eighth- and ninth-place finishers in each conference will play in wild-card matches. The top seven seeds qualify for the Round 1 best-of-three series.

Here is the playoff schedule:

  • Oct. 25-26: Wild-card matches (single-elimination matches)

  • Oct. 28-Nov. 12: Round 1 (best-of-three series)

  • Nov. 25-Dec. 3: Conference semifinals and finals (single-elimination matches)

  • Dec. 9: MLS Cup (single winner-take-all match)

What are Wednesday’s MLS matches?

These are the matchups for MLS Matchday 36:

All games are available on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

Lionel Messi has top-selling jersey in MLS

In news that will shock absolutely nobody, Lionel Messi has the No. 1 selling jersey in MLS, the league revealed last week.

There are the top 25 selling player jerseys on

  1. Lionel Messi, Inter Miami CF

  2. João Klauss, St. Louis City SC

  3. Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC

  4. Sebastián Driussi, Austin FC

  5. Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC

  6. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders FC

  7. Raúl Ruidíaz, Seattle Sounders FC

  8. Thiago Almada, Atlanta United

  9. Eduard Löwen, St. Louis City SC

  10. Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders FC

  11. Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC

  12. Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Los Angeles Galaxy

  13. Sergio Busquets, Inter Miami CF

  14. Tim Parker, St. Louis City SC

  15. Riqui Puig, Los Angeles Galaxy

  16. Brandon Vázquez, FC Cincinnati

  17. Karol Świderski, Charlotte FC

  18. John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls

  19. Diego Chará, Portland Timbers

  20. Dénis Bouanga, Los Angeles FC

  21. Josef Martínez, Inter Miami CF

  22. Carles Gil, New England Revolution

  23. Dániel Gazdag, Philadelphia Union

  24. Enzo Copetti, Charlotte FC

  25. Xherdan Shaqiri, Chicago Fire FC

There 15 different teams represented on the top 25 selling jersey lists, as well as 13 different nationalities:

  • Argentina (Thiago Almada, Enzo Copetti, Sebastián Driussi, Lionel Messi)

  • Brazil (João Klauss)

  • Colombia (Diego Chará)

  • Gabon (Dénis Bouanga)

  • Germany (Eduard Löwen, Hany Mukhtar)

  • Hungary (Dániel Gazdag)

  • Mexico (Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández, Carlos Vela)

  • Peru (Raúl Ruidíaz)

  • Poland (Karol Świderski)

  • Spain (Sergio Busquets, Carles Gil, Riqui Puig)

  • Switzerland (Xherdan Shaqiri)

  • United States (Jordan Morris, Tim Parker, Cristian Roldan, John Tolkin, Brandon Vázquez, Walker Zimmerman)

  • Venezuela (Josef Martínez)

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Is Messi playing tonight? Inter Miami vs. Chicago Fire FC live updates

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