Messi-led Inter Miami call off China tour



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Inter Miami cancels China tour Image: Phoenix Hill Sports Park, IDontHaveSkype, CC BY-SA 4.0

Soccer giant Lionel Messi won’t be playing in China this month after all.

‘The Guardian’ stated that the Major League Soccer (MLS) team Inter Miami CF (US) announced on November 1st that its planned trip to China for a pair of exhibition matches has been called off. The team announced the trip last month, with a pair of games originally scheduled for November 5th and November 8th.

Lionel Andrés Messi, also known as Leo Messi, is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward for and captains both the Major League Soccer (MLS) club Inter Miami CF and the Argentina national team. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Messi has won a record eight Ballon d’Or awards (an annual football award presented by the French news magazine France Football since 1956) and a record six European Golden Shoes (an award that is presented each season to the leading goalscorer in league matches from the top division of a European national league) and in 2020 he was named to the Ballon d’ Or Dream Team. Until leaving the club in 2021, he had spent his entire professional career with the LaLiga club FC Barcelona (Spain), where he won a club-record 34 trophies, including 10 LaLiga titles (the top men’s professional football division of the Spanish football league system), seven Copa del Rey (an annual knockout football competition in Spanish football) titles) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League (an annual club association football competition contested by the top-division European clubs) four times. With his country, he won the 2021 Copa América (the top men’s football tournament contested among the national teams from South America) and the 2022 FIFA World Cup™.

Nyon (Switzerland)-based the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is one of six continental bodies of governance in association football. It governs football, futsal and beach football in Europe and the transcontinental countries of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan, as well as some Asian countries such as Israel, Cyprus and Armenia. The UEFA consists of 55 national association members. Because of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the FIFA and UEFA suspended all Russian national teams and clubs from any FIFA and UEFA competitions.

The Inter Miami CF or Inter Miami is an American professional soccer club based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (US). Established in 2018, the club began playing in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS) during the 2020 season.

The 21,000-capacity DRV PNK Stadium is a soccer-specific stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (US). Built on the site of the former Lockhart Stadium, the 21,000-seat stadium is the home pitch of the Inter Miami CF of Major League Soccer (MLS).

‘The Guardian’ further stated that it would have been at least the eighth time that Messi – the World Cup champion for Argentina and now an eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, after receiving the annual award yet again recently – played in China, and the total attendance for the two planned matches could have exceeded 100,000.

Inter Miami said the reason was “unforeseen circumstances”. The tour promoter, NSN, said the decision to cancel was out of respect to Chinese officials after the death recently of the country’s former second-ranking leader, Li Keqiang. He was China’s top economic official for a decade.

A statement sent out by Inter Miami read, “The tour promoter, NSN, has informed Inter Miami CF of the cancellation of its China Tour due to unforeseen circumstances in China. Inter Miami’s ambition remains to expand its global reach by playing in front of incredible fans from across the globe. The club will continue to explore future opportunities with the NSN to achieve this goal.”

There were clear logistical challenges with the trip, including a botched ticket launch in China and reports that one of the matches would be canceled. It would have been Inter Miami’s first international tour and could have served as a warm-up of sorts before Messi is expected to play in two World Cup qualifying matches for Argentina later this month.

Messi returned to the United States early on November 2nd after winning the Ballon d’Or and was with Inter Miami for a training session that morning. The team did not make the Major League Soccer playoffs and now has no games officially scheduled, though the ongoing training suggests the Inter Miami may try to play an exhibition in the coming weeks.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. The league comprises 29 teams – 26 in the United States and 3 in Canada – since the 2023 season. The league is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, US.

The MLS Cup Playoffs is the annual postseason elimination tournament of Major League Soccer. The MLS Cup, the league’s championship game, is the final match of the tournament.

The team – which won the Leagues Cup this year for its first-ever trophy, doing so shortly after Messi’s ballyhooed signing with the club – hasn’t publicly revealed plans for any other international tours in the future, but others are expected given Messi’s enormous global popularity. He remains under contract to Inter Miami for the 2024 and 2025 MLS seasons, making between $50m and $60m annually.

Messi played in China as recently as this past June, shortly after he stunned much of the soccer world by announcing that he would sign with Inter Miami. He scored barely one minute into a match for Argentina against Australia in Beijing on June 15th.

Messi also won the Olympic gold in China, helping Argentina win the title at the Beijing Games in 2008. He and the Inter Miami Co-Owner David Beckham have enormous followings in Asia, along with several endorsement deals in the region.

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