Explained: What Lionel Messi's Inter Miami needs to qualify for MLS play-offs

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Lionel Messi Inter Miami 08262023
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Here's what Inter Miami needs to accomplish in the upcoming games to secure a spot in the MLS play-offs.

Inter Miami, buoyed by the arrival of Lionel Messi, has been making waves in the MLS recently. Seven points from a possible nine and an overall record of 11 games unbeaten since Messi joined the squad have fuelled the dreams of Herons fans.

After a 1-3 win against reigning champions Los Angeles FC (LAFC) at the BMO Stadium, the prospect of making it to the MLS playoffs is now a hot topic of discussion. But how realistic is this dream? GOAL digs deeper into what Inter Miami needs to accomplish in the upcoming games to secure a spot in the MLS play-offs.

Can Lionel Messi's Inter Miami qualify for MLS play-offs?

The 2023 MLS season has nine more games lined up for Tata Martino’s Inter Miami. The objective? To secure a place in the top nine of the MLS standings. A new format allows both the eighth and ninth-placed teams to participate in a wild-card round. The winners of these rounds will then join the top seven placed teams in the playoffs.

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As of now, Inter Miami has a lot of ground to cover. They currently sit at the penultimate position in the Eastern Conference, with just 25 points. They have also suffered the highest number of defeats all season, tied with Montreal at 14 losses.

Inter Miami faces the additional challenge of navigating international breaks in September and October, which means they'll be without key players like Lionel Messi who will join the Argentina national team, for two or three fixtures.

To understand what the team needs to aim for, fans can look at historical data. Over the last three seasons, teams needed an average of 43.3 points to secure ninth place in the Eastern Conference. This offers a useful marker for Inter Miami. Currently standing at 25 points, the team would need to average more than two points per game in the remaining nine games to hit this target.

September 9Inter Miami vs Sporting KC
September 16Atlanta United vs Inter Miami
September 20Inter Miami vs Toronto
September 24Orlando City vs Inter Miami
September 30Inter Miami vs New York City
October 4Chicago Fire vs Inter Miami
October 7Inter Miami vs Cincinnati
October 18Inter Miami vs Charlotte
October 21Charlotte vs Inter Miami

An interesting twist in Inter Miami's favor is the number of games played. Most of the teams that are ahead of Miami in the standings have played at least two more games. This essentially gives Inter Miami games in hand that could be crucial in the long run.

For a more specific point of reference, the ninth-place finishers in the Eastern Conference had 42 and 47 points in the 2022 and 2021 seasons, respectively. To err on the side of caution, aiming for the 47-point benchmark seems prudent for Inter Miami. Any loss at this stage would severely dent their chances of making the playoffs.

Lionel Messi Inter Miami MLS 2023

The Herons currently have two games in hand on ninth-place D.C. United, who are eight points ahead. If Inter Miami wins these two games in hand, they could potentially close the gap to just two points, making their journey to the playoffs more feasible. This context adds another layer of excitement and possibility to the team's aspirations.

Despite the excitement surrounding Messi's arrival and a string of positive results, Inter Miami has quite the mountain to climb to reach the MLS playoffs. The team will have to average around two points per game in the remaining fixtures and will need to do this while missing key players during international breaks. While the task is daunting, the recent performance suggests that it is not entirely out of reach. Herons fans will certainly be watching with bated breath.

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