Inter Miami picks: Predicting Lionel Messi's team's games for rest of MLS season as Herons pursue playoff push

After being treated to the appetizer of Lionel Messi in Leagues Cup play where the Argentine star led Inter Miami to the title while registering 10 goals and one assist, we’re beginning to enter crunch time where he’ll now need to lead them to a playoff berth against all odds. While he’ll have help as the team were able to earn a first-half lead against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday that Messi was able to finish off by scoring his first MLS goal, they’re still 11 points off of ninth place in the league with only 11 matches to go. That climb into a playoff spot is not insurmountable and nothing seems impossible for this red-hot squad. 

But not only will Miami need to pick up as many points as possible, but they’ll also need help from the teams around them as they don’t control their own destiny. The other squad members will also be critical as during international breaks in September and October, Tata Martino could be without a large portion of the roster while facing Sporting Kansas City and Charlotte FC twice. 

Serhiy Kryvtsov has already been called up by Ukraine, Messi, Robert Taylor, and Josef Martinez will be with their nations and Leonardo Campana could join them as well. That’s even if Drake Callender doesn’t end up in U.S. men’s national team camp since Zack Steffan is injured and Ethan Horvath no longer has a starting role. Miami will have holes in the roster which Martino will need to work around. New signings Diego Gomez, Tomas Aviles and Facundo Farias will make that easier to do but everyone will need to contribute to weather the storm. 

Over the last three seasons, the line for ninth place was 43.3 points. While it’s a small sample size due to expansion clubs being added left and right and Nashville flipping conferences every year, it at least provides a marker for what Miami need to do to have a shot. Currently on 21 points, they’d need to average two points per game to make that marker so let’s see if that’s possible based on the remaining schedule.

Miami’s upcoming schedule and predictions

Aug. 30

7:30 p.m. ET

Nashville SC

Inter Miami 2, Nashville 1

Sept. 3

10 p.m. ET

@ Los Angeles FC

LAFC 3, Inter Miami 2

Sept.  9

7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City

Inter Miami 3, Sporting 1

Sept. 16

5 p.m. ET

@ Atlanta United

Atlanta United 3, Inter Miami 3

Sept. 20

7:30 p.m. ET

Toronto FC

Inter Miami 5, Toronto 0

Sept. 24

7:30 p.m. ET

Orlando City SC

Orlando City 1, Inter Miami 2

Sept. 30

7:30 p.m. ET

New York City FC

Inter Miami 2, NYCFC 0

Oct. 4

8:30 p.m. ET

@ Chicago Fire

Chicago 1, Inter Miami 3

Oct. 7

7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati

Inter Miami 2, FC Cincinnati 3

Oct. 18

8 p.m. ET

Charlotte FC

Inter Miami 2, Charlotte FC 0

Oct. 21

6 p.m. ET

@ Charlotte FC

Charlotte FC 1, Inter Miami 3

If my crystal ball is correct, that would put Miami on 46 points which would’ve missed playoffs before their expansion to allow eighth and ninth in but could put them on pace for a berth this season while also creating a nightmare for the one seed in the conference if they can win the play-in round. It’s also important to note that the tiebreaker for MLS is the number of wins and not goal difference and that’s where Miami could have a large advantage due to not drawing many games this season compared to the teams in front of them in the table.

Margins are thin as the projections not only have a small sample size but they also don’t take into account that ninth place is a bigger incentive than in years past. Miami have a mountain to climb in the league but with Messi, the Herons have already achieved history so they can’t be ruled out from keeping the incredible form going. Nobody has been able to stop them just yet.   

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