MLS schedule released: Messi and Miami make first ever start to the season

Major League Soccer will begin the 2024 season with a stand-alone match with Inter Miami on February 21, a match that will kick off a more than nine-month season, the schedule of which was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Here are the key dates you need to know:

Busy start for Messi, Inter Miami

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will play an independent match in midweek to kick off the 2024 MLS season, as they host Real Salt Lake in South Florida on Wednesday, February 21 at 8 pm ET. It is the first start to a MLS season in the league’s 29-year history, and comes just six days after the sixth and final international friendly of the pre-season.

Starting on January 19, Inter Miami’s pre-season tour will take them to El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Japan. They will play their last friendly match against Messi and Tata Martino’s boyhood club, Newell’s Old Boys, on February 15 in Fort Lauderdale.

As for Martino, he will have to carefully manage his roster over the winter, paying particular attention to Messi, Busquets, Alba, and Suarez. All four former Barcelona players will be the main attraction during the Miami World Tour. But all four players will also be key to Inter Miami’s hopes of winning multiple titles in 2024. It will be interesting to see how Miami’s busy preseason schedule will be viewed late in the season.

“Next year will be much better,” Messi said last month during the Ballon d’Or ceremony at Inter Miami’s DRV Pink Stadium. “We will continue to have fun and win trophies.”

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After Miami and RSL kick off the season on Wednesday, the rest of the league gets in on the action with 14 games between Saturday and Sunday, with Miami traveling to Los Angeles to face the Galaxy.

El Trafico at the Rose Bowl

After an MLS record crowd of 82,110 fans turned out to watch LA Galaxy v LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl on July 4 last year, the league will return again in 2024 with a second iteration: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Los Angeles FC on Thursday, July 4 at 10:30 PM ET.

The Galaxy will be a much changed team, with key players Chicharito and Douglas Costa already gone. For LAFC, superstar Carlos Vela is among a cadre of key players whose contracts have expired.

MLS Cup rematch

Los Angeles FC hosts MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew on July 13 at BMO Stadium. The Crew beat LAFC in Columbus to win the MLS Cup 2-1 this year, so this will be LAFC’s first chance at revenge.

The League Cup will start shortly after the Copa America final

As they did in 2023, MLS and Liga MX will pause their regular seasons and participate in a second edition of the League Cup in 2024. The tournament will once again feature 47 teams from the United States, Canada and Mexico, starting on July 26. Just 12 days after the 2024 Copa America final in Miami. The League Cup final will be held on August 25, and the title will be held by Inter Miami and Lionel Messi.

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Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday that the three qualifying spots for the CONCACAF Champions Cup will remain up for grabs, and that each match will again be decided in regular time or by penalty kicks. However, changes to the tournament format are likely to be announced early next year. The athlete understands that tournament organizers will look to improve the competition based on feedback from key stakeholders, including fans and participating clubs.

However, it is unlikely that the League Cup matches will be held in Mexico. Last summer, several Liga MX teams criticized the format of the tournament, specifically the cross-country travel that Mexican clubs endured over the course of the competition, as well as the administration. Monterrey sporting director José Antonio Noriega was among the most vocal critics of the inaugural tournament.

“More organization is needed,” Noriega said after Monterrey qualified for the League Cup quarter-finals. “Things need to be fairer. There is a lot that needs to be improved and we hope they do, because this is not good at all.

Go deeper

League Cup: Messi’s impact, controversies and more

Decision Day and MLS Cup

MLS will conclude the regular season with the now-traditional Decision Day, which sees every team in every conference kick off simultaneously. It will happen one day Saturday 19 October. After that, it was on to the playoffs, culminating in the MLS Cup Saturday 7 December.

(Photo: Logan Reilly/Getty Images)

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