FC Cincinnati coach Noonan: Supporters’ Shield more relevant than MLS Cup

Noonan’s side clinched the Shield with a win at Toronto FC on Saturday

FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan has said he believes the Supporters’ Shield is now more relevant than MLS Cup.

Noonan’s side clinched the Supporters’ Shield on Saturday with a 3-2 win over Toronto FC, completing an incredible turnaround that saw the team finish dead last in MLS for three straight seasons (2019-21).

The Shield is awarded to the team with the best regular-season record, which is, of course, how the majority of leagues worldwide crown their overall champion.

In MLS though, winning the Shield is merely a guarantee of homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and MLS Cup.

In a league where 18 of 29 teams currently reach the postseason, Noonan said on Monday that he felt winning the Shield represented something even bigger than taking home MLS Cup — though he stressed his side’s desire to do both.

“It’s a big achievement, and maybe that conversation is different years back but for me, it’s the consistency of a team over the course of a season,” Noonan told reporters in quotes published on the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“For me, now, and even my own opinion of it has changed: I think it has now surpassed MLS Cup in terms of relevance. That’s not to take away from the desire of our team to hold an MLS Cup but for that team to be the top team over the course of the season, I think, is very meaningful. The hope is that we can find a way to achieve both.”

Noonan’s side will now look to match Los Angeles FC, which won a Shield-MLS Cup double last year, becoming the eighth team to achieve the feat.

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Apple TV docuseries ‘Messi Meets America’ to debut October 11

The first three of the six episodes will be released on October 11, with the final three to follow

The first three episodes of “Messi Meets America” will be available on October 11, with the final three episodes to follow later in the MLS season.

Apple has promised that the series will feature exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to Messi and his inner circle, as it chronicles the World Cup-winner’s early journey with Inter Miami, which has already included a transformation of the club on the field and a Leagues Cup title.

“Messi Meets America” will be executive produced by Emmy winner Tim Pastore (“Free Solo,” “Jane”), Emmy and Tony winners Patrick Milling Smith and Brian Carmody, and Emmy winner Matt Renner (“Free Solo,” “Limitless with Chris Hemsworth”) of Smuggler Entertainment.

Apple TV is already developing a different documentary series on Messi, this one a four-parter that will chronicle Messi’s journey to World Cup glory with Argentina at the end of 2022.

Watch ‘Messi Meets America’ trailer

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MLS Golden Boot 2023 standings: Top contenders for the prize

Let’s look at the top 10 players in the MLS Golden Boot race for the 2023 season.

The race is on for the 2023 MLS Golden Boot, as players look to earn the title of the league’s top goalscorer.

Nashville SC star Hany Mukhtar won the prize in 2022, as his 23-goal haul narrowly beat out Sebastián Driussi and Dániel Gazdag, who each finished with 22 goals.

Should players end the season tied on goals, the first tiebreaker is assists. If players have the same number of goals and assists, the next tiebreaker is highest goals per 90 minutes (in other words, the fewest minutes played).

Let’s look at the top 10 players in the MLS Golden Boot race for the 2023 season.

Messi injury reports disputed by Inter Miami coach Martino

Will Messi be back for Miami’s final four games?

How bad is Lionel Messi’s injury? It might just boil down to who you believe.

Messi was in street clothes for Inter Miami’s dramatic 1-1 draw with New York City FC, a match that saw the Herons equalize in stoppage time and nearly claim a priceless victory with an even later effort that smacked off the underside of the crossbar.

Despite the wild finish to a game that was delayed by storms around DRV PNK Stadium, Messi remained the major talking point after the match.

A report from the Inter Miami Podcast (which is not affiliated with the team) said that Messi had “sustained a 2 [centimeter] hamstring tear, confirmed via MRI, likely shutting him down for the remainder of the MLS season.”

After the match, head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino dismissed the report as incorrect.

“Time will tell whether what I am saying is true or whether that person who made the report is right,” Martino said in his post-match press conference. “It is what I said. We’re going to see this game to game.

“We’re going to evaluate him. If he’s going to be on the bench, if he’s going to be [unavailable], whether against Chicago or FC Cincinnati, we’re going to see that. He’s training on the field apart from the group, but he’s feeling better and better.”

Messi has been seen at Miami’s recent training sessions doing work to at least some extent, though just how much he’s capable of remains unclear. Martino had previously declared that Messi would return before the end of the MLS season.

(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Miami still holds a glimmer of hope if Messi returns

With time running out on the regular season, the single point was not really what Messi’s side needed.

However, with the Eastern Conference playoff race being a sloppy, slippery mess, Miami actually finished the night one point closer to the top nine than it was when play started. Of the seven teams vying for the final two spots still available, only one (the Chicago Fire) won on Saturday, with three suffering defeat elsewhere.

The bad news? The Herons sit four points behind ninth-place CF Montréal (who are ahead of D.C. United and the Fire on the games-won tiebreaker). With just four games to go, there’s just no room for error.

The good? Miami has a game in hand on Montréal and Chicago, and two on D.C., meaning that it will only take a couple of slip-ups from teams that seem immune to going on any sort of positive streak for Miami to have an opening.

“We have been playing many games and they are all decisive games, not only mentally but physically,” said Martino. “What we did today was with dignity and despite all the problems, we are trying to win. When we started, we were in last place three months ago, and these guys were able to put us where we are today. We have great expectations.”

Miami has been battling late in a series of close games, even as the club’s schedule remains relentless. The club’s draw with NYCFC was its fifth match in two weeks, a figure that will climb by two within the next six days. The Herons face a trip to Chicago to take on the Fire on Wednesday, followed by a Saturday home clash with Cincinnati.

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Messi remains out for Inter Miami, missing crucial NYCFC clash

Messi won’t play any part in possibly the biggest game in Miami’s playoff chase

Lionel Messi was once again missing on Saturday, as Inter Miami faced its biggest game in a desperate MLS playoff chase.

The global icon wasn’t on head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s team sheet as Miami hosted New York City FC, with the two sides playing out a 1-1 draw at DRV PNK Stadium.

Miami had said that Messi would test his injury, said to be related to old scar tissue from a past knock, at training on Thursday and Friday, but apparently concluded that the superstar was not yet ready to participate in any capacity.

Between injury and international conflicts, Messi has now missed four of Miami’s last five matches, including Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup final loss to the Houston Dynamo, since scoring a spectacular winner for Argentina on September 7. Martino assured reporters after that match that Messi would return before the end of the MLS season, but noted that the exact timeline was totally uncertain.

Without Messi, Miami’s red-hot form has cooled significantly. The Herons were capable of beating Sporting Kansas City with their No. 10 away on international duty, and routed Toronto FC 4-0 in a game that was scoreless when Messi trudged off with his current knock.

However, it hasn’t been so easy against any team above the playoff line, with Miami losing to Houston in the Open Cup and Atlanta United in league play, while settling for a draw with Orlando City as well.

NYCFC, which entered Saturday’s game in the ninth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, took the lead in the 77th minute through Santi Rodríguez.

Tomás Avilés answered for Inter Miami in the 95th minute, before David Ruiz agonizingly struck the crossbar in the dying moments when presented with a chance to give the Herons a crucial win.

Inter Miami’s Messi-free lineup vs. NYCFC

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Inter Miami vs. NYCFC: How to watch Messi in MLS

A key match for both sides in the race for MLS’s final few playoff spots

Inter Miami, whether or not Lionel Messi is available, is facing an absolutely crucial game against New York City FC in pursuit of an MLS playoff spot.

Messi’s status is the big mystery, with the Argentine superstar taking the pitch Friday to “test it out” at training for the Herons. The 36-year-old has missed four of Miami’s last five matches, and his lone appearance in that stretch saw him substituted off after 37 minutes with a recurrence of what the club has maintained is a problem with old scar tissue.

In his absence, Miami’s previously red-hot form has cooled significantly. The Herons had previously gone unbeaten in Messi’s first 11 appearances since a blockbuster summer move to MLS, and the club has not lost a match in which the iconic attacker has appeared.

However, in the four games Messi played no part in since this injury cropped up, Miami has won just once, most recently losing the U.S. Open Cup final at home to the Houston Dynamo.

NYCFC, meanwhile, is the rare MLS playoff bubble team rounding into form. Nick Cushing’s side seemed to be losing touch with the pack, but has gone five games without a loss and conceding just one goal in the process.

That form is terrible news for Miami, who sit five points behind the Bronx-based club for the final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference.

Here is everything you need to know to watch Miami take on NYCFC.

How to watch Inter Miami vs. NYCFC

When: Saturday, September 30

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: DRV PNK Stadium

Channel/streaming: Apple TV

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Messi tops list of top 25 selling MLS jerseys

Messi is very popular, who would have thought

It turns out people really, really want Lionel Messi jerseys.

Messi unsurprisingly sat at the top of MLS’s list of the top 25 most-purchasd jerseys this season, with his Inter Miami number 10 shirt proving to be a huge seller.

Miami, expansion side St. Louis City SC, and the Seattle Sounders (a longtime jersey sales juggernaut whose Bruce Lee tribute kit was released this season) each placed three players on the list.

The list includes five MLS newcomers (Sergio Busquets, Enzo Copetti, João Klauss, Eduard Löwen, and Messi) and four prior MLS MVPs (Carles Gil, Josef Martínez, Hany Mukhtar, and Carlos Vela. Curiously, it does not include this year’s clear MVP frontrunner, Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati.

Here is the complete list of the top 25 selling jerseys in MLS:

Messi taking it ‘day-by-day’ as he aims to play in vital NYCFC game

The Herons face a crucial test on Saturday as they aim to make a late playoff push

Lionel Messi will test his fitness at training on Friday ahead of a crucial game on Saturday against New York City FC, according to Inter Miami assistant coach Javier Morales.

Messi has missed three of Inter Miami’s past four games while battling what head coach Tata Martino has called “muscular fatigue” and “old scar tissue.”

The latest match Messi was forced to sit out was Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup final, which Inter Miami lost 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo at home.

Martino insisted after the game that Messi would not be lost for the rest of the season, with five games remaining in Miami’s regular-season campaign.

The club’s attention will now turn toward an increasingly difficult push for a playoff berth. Any realistic hope of making the postseason will start with a win over NYCFC, which currently occupies the ninth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday’s game, Morales said that Messi was still holding out hope he could play a part at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday.

“We are taking it day-by-day,” he said. “We were trying up until the last moment for the final but he couldn’t make it. It’s communication with the medical staff and with him to see how he’s feeling. Now he is going to train and test it out.”

As for Jordi Alba, though, the news was less encouraging.

“Jordi is different, it’s a little longer than Leo,” Morales said. “It’s a hamstring injury and he’ll be out for this weekend.”

Like Messi, Alba’s most recent appearance came in last week’s game against Toronto FC, in which both former Barcelona stars were removed before halftime due to injury.

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Inter Miami season ticket prices skyrocket for 2024

Messi may be can’t-miss entertainment, but getting in the door is gonna cost you

Going to see Lionel Messi and Inter Miami next year isn’t going to be cheap.

Miami began supplying season ticket holders with price information and renewal forms for the 2024 season on Thursday, and prices for to see Messi, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and the rest of the Herons have risen dramatically.

The cheapest 2023 season ticket bought when the team’s biggest names were Josef Martínez and Leo Campana cost just $485 per the Miami Herald. In 2024, that exact same ticket will cost $884, a rise of $399 (or 82%). The least-expensive option in 2024, now on the south end of DRV PNK Stadium rather than the supporters’ section behind the north goal, will run you $867. Those tickets were $592 in 2023, meaning they have increased in price by 46%.

Prices are up across the board, and these are not modest hikes. The smallest increase by percentage comes in section 121 and a portion of section 128, which went from $745 to $1,020 (a change of $275, or 37%).

Want something near midfield? How about access to club seating? Next year those seats will be $7,650, which is 112% above 2023’s price point of $3,609. “Loge” box seats start at $42,840, though at least there you get food and some drinks (not liquor, though, let’s be reasonable!). Buying a season package in those spots also comes with a parking pass and a VIP entrance, which is to say a possibly shorter line to go watch the same game everyone else is going to.

The Miami Herald’s report noted that season ticket packages come with access to open training sessions, watch parties, and discounts when spending more money on other things at the stadium via concession stands and the team store.

Fans frustrated over Inter Miami ticket prices

On one hand, it’s hardly a surprise to see Miami, now featuring a more compelling product for sale, increasing prices. It’s Messi, everyone wants to see him do his thing.

However, the reality for a run-of-the-mill fan of the club is that they’ve been coming to DRV PNK Stadium (a temporary venue that is actually in Ft. Lauderdale) to watch a team that has piled up a -44 goal difference across its MLS regular season life (overall record in those games: 42W-19D-59L) suddenly ask for far more money than ever before, all while the Herons still seem less than likely to go to the playoffs.

The average cheapest seat at a Premier League ground, by comparison, runs you around $640.

That’s only 74% of the cost for Miami’s cheapest seat, and again: that’s the Premier League, the most talent-rich league in the history of the sport. MLS is very fun, and Messi is Messi, but what’s on display is not exactly Manchester City vs. Arsenal.

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Inter Miami coach Martino insists Messi isn’t done for the season

Inter Miami has five MLS games left as it looks to push into playoff position

After Lionel Messi missed the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday, Inter Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino insisted that the Argentina superstar would play again this season.

Messi watched on in street clothes as Miami fell 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo, with the visitors scoring two first-half goals and holding on late after the home side grabbed a goal in second-half stoppage time.

The Open Cup final was the third game out of four that Messi has missed, while he was removed before halftime of the only game he played — last week’s win over Toronto FC.

The nature of Messi’s issue isn’t fully clear. Martino has continued to say that the 36-year-old isn’t actually injured, but instead is dealing with “muscular fatigue” and “old scar tissue.”

But when Messi couldn’t even make the bench for a final, it was clear that he is dealing with an issue slightly more serious then mere fatigue.

After the game, however, Martino said that his star player’s season wasn’t over.

“It was not prudent for him to play, not even to consider him for a few minutes because we would have run risks,” Martino said in a press conference.

“And yes, he will surely play before the end of the season.

“We will go match by match defining the situation to see at what point the medical department tells us that he is fit to play without taking risks.”

Inter Miami is still alive for a playoff spot, but is 14th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. With five games to play, Miami is five points back of NYCFC in the ninth and final playoff position in the East.

Though Miami has two games in hand over NYCFC, it still has to leapfrog five teams to move into playoff position.

The Herons’ next game, coincidentally, is against NYCFC on Saturday.

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