Lionel Messi will be back in action Wednesday, with Inter Miami set to face Orlando City in the round of 16 of the Leagues Cup, the Argentine star’s third game for the MLS franchise.
The team partially owned by David Beckham is showing its best form in a long time, qualifying for the tournament’s next stage in solid fashion with wins over Mexican outfit Cruz Azul (2-1) and fellow MLS side Atlanta United (4-0), with Messi scoring three goals and assisting another.
Orlando City has struggled a bit more, needing a last-minute goal by Peruvian midfielder Wilder Cartagena to beat Santos Laguna 3-2 and earn the top spot in its group. “Los Leones”, as the team is known, had previously tied with Houston Dynamo 1-1. Orlando features a quartet of Argentines in defender Rodrigo Schlegel, winger Martín Ojeda and strikers Gastón González and Ramiro Enrique.
Despite both Inter Miami and Orlando City being fairly new franchises, the game is quickly becoming the Florida Derby. While Inter began competing in the US league in 2018, Orlando started three years prior, in 2015. However, there’s already animosity between their fans. After Orlando fans vandalized a Messi mural in Miami, Inter fans flocked to the place to fix it and later published a message in their social media channels, saying LTA Violeta.
The message is a reference to an iconic Diego Maradona moment, who, as a coach for Argentina’s National Team in 2009, cussed out a journalist who had been critical of his performance in a press conference after an Argentina win against Peru, saying “la tenés adentro” (“you have it inside of you”, an insult that has become popular in Argentine parlance as LTA.)
On the pitch, however, the clash lacks the flair of other more storied MLS rivalries. The Florida derby doesn’t even have an agreed-upon name yet, although Clásico del Sol is getting consensus. It also lacks a Challenge Cup to be at stake, such as the Atlantic Cup (contested between DC United and NY Red Bull) or the Brimstone Cup (between FC Dallas and Chicago Fire).
The record favors Orlando City, who leads the five wins to three in 11 matches played. The two have already met in a cup competition when Inter Miami was knocked out of the 2022 US Open Cup after a penalties shootout.
The match will be played Wednesday at the DRV PNK Stadium in Miami, Florida, 8 p.m. local time, 9 p.m. Argentina time. It will be broadcast on the Apple TV streaming platform, which requires a monthly US$7 subscription. In addition, you also have to pay the MLS Season Pass, US$15 per month or US$99 for the Season Pass.