Hello! The soccer calendar is delivering a handful of high-stakes matchups to keep us busy midweek, from Champions League qualifiers to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals (which you can watch for free on the CBS Sports Golazo Network). The latter includes the latest installment of Messi Mania, in which Inter Miami play at FC Cincinnati for a spot in their second tournament final this season. I’m Pardeep Cattry with your Messi-themed updates, as well as other stories from the world of soccer.
New to the Golazo Starting XI newsletter? Get yourself the best deal in soccer and subscribe now to ensure you receive updates three times a week.
📺 Footy fix
All times U.S./Eastern
Wednesday, Aug. 23
🇪🇺 Conference League: Hibernian vs. Aston Villa, 12:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇪🇺 Champions League: Molde vs. Galatasaray, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 Open Cup: FC Cincinnati vs. Inter Miami, 7 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇺🇸 Open Cup: Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇲🇽 Liga MX: America vs. Nexaca, 9 p.m. ➡️ TUDN
🇺🇸 MLS: LAFC vs. Colorado Rapids, 10:30 p.m. ➡️ Apple TV+
Thursday, Aug. 24
🇪🇺 Conference League: Fenerbahce vs. Twente, 1 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇪🇺 Europa League: Ludogorets vs. Ajax, 2 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
⚽ The Forward Line
Messi’s silverware pursuit continues
It may still be early days in Lionel Messi’s tenure at Inter Miami, but the star is in the midst of perhaps the club’s most important week ever. Miami lifted their first trophy on Saturday when they won the Leagues Cup and will have the chance to get closer to another piece of silverware tonight with a matchup against FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
Messi has started six of the seven games he’s played so far for Miami and scored 10 goals in the process, boosting his credentials as the world’s most undroppable player. The match in Cincinnati is only Miami’s second of three games this week, though, with Messi’s MLS debut at the New York Red Bulls looming. As Chuck Booth writes, it forces the question: How many minutes are too many minutes for the 36-year-old Messi?
- Booth: “He has also logged 564 minutes in just under a month. They are playing their third game in only eight days with another one around the corner against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, seeing the Herons travel from Nashville to Cincinnati and then to Harrison. … ‘We said that at some point he would have to rest because of the load of minutes played,’ [Miami head coach Tata] Martino said on Monday. ‘Clearly, Wednesday is not going to be that day. If he does not tell me he wants to rest, he will continue to play.'”
For more on managing Messi’s minutes, Felipe Cardenas also stopped by Box to Box to talk about when Messi could possibly take a break.
As Martino kicks the rotation can down the road, the expectation will once again be on Messi to lead Miami to another victory. Cincinnati, meanwhile, will have the chance to find out if a tired Messi packs the same punch as a well-rested one. The winner awaits the winner of the Houston Dynamo’s encounter with Real Salt Lake, which takes place later tonight.
Paramount+ will also have extra coverage of Miami’s trip to Cincinnati with a Star Cam that will follow Messi’s movement all night.
Sponsored by Paramount+
🔗 Midfield Link Play
Messi’s Miami goals, ranked
True to form, Messi has scored a handful of highlight-reel worthy goals during his early days in Miami. Booth ranked his 10 strikes so far, with some of his best strikes coming on major occasions. Coming in at number two was his most recent goal, which came from distance against Nashville SC in the Leagues Cup final.
It was hard to outshine Messi’s first goal for Miami in his debut, which ranks as his best goal so far. As Booth noted, the goal from a free kick was more than just a stunning strike; it marked a very memorable moment that is hard to top.
- Booth: “For a goal to truly be number one not only does it need to be a beautiful goal but it also needs to be a goal scored where the stakes were high. It doesn’t become much more of a pressure cooker to win a game for your team in your debut but Messi’s arrival has felt like a movie and when the opening scene is this good, it’ll be pretty hard to top.”
Here are some more headlines from around the soccer world.
🔗 Spain federation president Luis Rubiales is facing calls to resign after he forcibly kissed Jennifer Hermoso during the trophy ceremony at the Women’s World Cup.
🔗 James Benge provides the latest on the Folarin Balogun transfer saga, in which Monaco are the leading candidate to sign the U.S. men’s national team forward.
🔗 Christian Pulisic kicked off his AC Milan stint with a goal on his debut.
🔗 Sandra Herrera ranked the top 10 moments from the Women’s World Cup.
🔗 Benge also writes about Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah after his strong performance against Crystal Palace on Monday.
🔗 Pep Guardiola will miss the next two games for Manchester City after undergoing emergency back surgery.
🔗 Felipe Cardenas stops by Morning Footy to preview the Open Cup semifinal between Cincinnai and Miami, while the rest of the team chats Houston vs. RSL.
🔗 The Morning Footy team look back at Messi’s storied career and provide their predictions for FC Cincinnati vs. Inter Miami.
🔗 Attacking Third covers the rapid growth of women’s soccer in Spain over the last several years.
🔗 The Attacking Third team also praised Spain’s midfield as essential to the team’s World Cup victory.
🔗 Morning Footy recaps Lindsey Horan’s criticism of the U.S. women’s national team coaching staff’s decisions at the World Cup.
🔗 Box to Box talks Christian Pulisic’s hot start in Serie A.
🔗 The Attacking Third team picks their standout player of the World Cup and their favorite moments of the tournament.
🔗 Christian Unkel reviews the penalty decision during the World Cup final with Attacking Third.
🔗 Morning Footy also covers Sergino Dest’s move to PSV and his search for playing time.
🔗 Morning Footy also looks at Jude Bellingham’s first two games with Real Madrid.
🔗 Houston head coach Ben Olsen sits down for a chat on Box to Box.
🔗 In Soccer We Trust previews the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
💵 Best bets
- Champions League: Molde vs. Galatasaray, Wednesday, 3 p.m.
💰 THE PICK: Only one team to score (+110) — The Turkish side are the oddsmakers’ favorites to advance, so expect this to be a one-sided affair where only Galatasaray gets on the scoresheet and qualify for the Champions League group stage.
- U.S. Open Cup: FC Cincinnati vs. Inter Miami, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
💰 THE PICK: Three goals scored in the game (+295) — Inter Miami games are never dull when Messi’s on the field. While the star is expected to score yet again on Wednesday, Cincinnati might have their chances against a team that played many of their starters just a few days earlier.