Lionel Messi, the illustrious Argentine footballer, is setting the stage for his first full season with Major League Soccer's Inter Miami, bringing heightened anticipation to the 2024 campaign. After concluding his tenure with Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2023, Messi transitioned to Inter Miami on a two-and-a-half-year contract, marking a significant chapter in his illustrious career. Despite joining the league mid-season in August 2023, Messi quickly made his mark, contributing to Inter Miami's triumph in the Leagues Cup and propelling the team to the U.S. Open Cup final.

Over six matches in his debut MLS stint, Messi scored a goal and provided two assists, finishing the season with a commendable tally of 11 goals and five assists across all competitions. With the addition of Messi's former FC Barcelona teammates Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets, and under the guidance of ex-Barca coach Gerardo Martino, Inter Miami is poised for an electrifying full season that has fans across North America eagerly anticipating the reunion of these Barcelona legends.

The 2024 MLS season is slated to commence on February 21, with Inter Miami's opening match against Real Salt Lake at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. This season opener sets the tone for a series of eagerly awaited fixtures that will see Messi and his team compete against a host of opponents, promising a thrilling soccer spectacle for fans.

Inter Miami 2024 Schedule (All kick-off times listed as ET):

February 21 vs Real Salt Lake - 8 pm

February 25 at LA Galaxy - 8:30 pm

March 2 vs Orlando City - 4:30 pm

March 10 vs CF Montreal - 6 pm

March 16 at DC United - 2 pm

March 23 at New York Red Bulls - 2 pm

March 30 vs New York City FC - 7:30 pm

April 6 vs Colorado Rapids - 7:30 pm

April 13 at Sporting Kansas City - 8:30 pm

April 20 vs Nashville SC - 7:30 pm

April 27 at New England Revolution - 7:30 pm

May 4 vs New York Red Bulls - 7:30 pm

May 11 at CF Montreal - 7:30 pm

May 15 at Orlando City - 7:30 pm

May 18 vs DC United - 7:30 pm

May 25 at Vancouver Whitecaps - 10:30 pm

May 29 vs Atlanta United - 7:30 pm

June 1 vs St. Louis City SC - 7:30 pm

June 15 at Philadelphia Union - 7:30 pm

June 19 vs Columbus Crew - 7:30 pm

June 29 at Nashville SC - 8:30 pm

July 3 at Charlotte FC - 7:30 pm

July 6 at FC Cincinnati - 7:30 pm

July 17 vs Toronto FC - 7:30 pm

July 20 vs Chicago Fire - 7:30 pm

August 24 vs FC Cincinnati - 7:30 pm

August 31 at Chicago Cire - 8:30 pm

September 14 vs Philadelphia Union - 7:30 pm

September 18 at Atlanta United - 7:30 pm

September 21 at New York City FC - 2 pm

September 28 vs Charlotte FC - 7:30 pm

October 2 at Columbus Crew - 7:30 pm

October 5 at Toronto FC - 7:30 pm

October 19 vs New England Revolution - 6 pm

In the lead-up to the new season, Inter Miami embarked on a pre-season tour across Asia, visiting Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Hong Kong. However, the tour was not without its controversies, particularly surrounding Messi's absence from a friendly game in Hong Kong. This decision sparked significant backlash, especially among the 40,000 fans in attendance and various stakeholders in China. Authorities in Beijing and Hangzhou subsequently canceled two friendly matches that the Argentine national team was scheduled to play in March, citing Messi's absence as an affront.

Addressing the controversy, Messi clarified his position in an interview, emphasizing his respect for China and explaining that an inflamed adductor prevented his participation in the Hong Kong match. He elaborated on his efforts to play despite the discomfort, ultimately choosing to partake in the Japan game to regain match fitness in preparation for the upcoming season.

As Messi and Inter Miami gear up for the 2024 MLS season, the focus shifts to the potential impact of one of football's greatest talents on the American soccer landscape. With an impressive debut season behind him and the support of his former Barcelona colleagues, Messi's full-season participation holds promising prospects for Inter Miami and the broader MLS, drawing global attention to the league and setting the stage for a historic campaign.