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Greetings from Miami
We're at DRV PNK Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale for tonight's Messi-less Charlotte FC match vs. Inter Miami CF
Note: We’re in Miami tonight, so follow Soccer Sheet on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and right here on Substack for updates and insights about the match. I’ll let you know if we see Leo Messi in the stands.
Tonight at 8PM Eastern, Charlotte FC plays the first of two must-win matches against Inter Miami CF. While Lionel Messi (almost certainly) won’t be in the lineup tonight due to playing an international match in Lima, Perú last night, he seemed to confirm that he’ll be playing in Miami’s final game of the MLS season against Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.
The last time Charlotte played here, they lost 4-0 in the Leagues Cup against a stacked Inter Miami team. However, Miami will be far from full-strength tonight, with many players - including Messi - out on international duty or for other reasons.
Charlotte doesn’t have the same challenges. While they don’t have Derrick Jones due to yellow card accumulation or Ben Bender due to an injury, they will have their most important international player, forward Karol Świderski, fresh from scoring a goal for the Polish national team.
Charlotte is missing Jere Uronen due to international duty; last night, he joined Inter Miami’s Robert Taylor on the pitch for the Finish national team. Taylor scored a goal, while Uronen came in off the bench - neither of the national teammates is expected to play tonight.
Like Taylor and Messi, Miami’s players aren’t rushing back to play tonight. The team has been eliminated from the playoffs, while Charlotte can guarantee an 8th place finish and the first-ever MLS playoff match at the Bank with a win tonight and one on Saturday against a stronger Miami squad.
I broke down the playoff scenarios in my most recent piece for Queen City Nerve:
Sport is full of cliches, so apologies if you’ve heard this one: Charlotte FC controls its own destiny. Though they’re currently in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 39 points and a 9-11-12 record, they have two matches left to play — one more than every other team in the East still in the playoff race.
What that means is that if the team wins its remaining matches, no other result from another team changes their playoff path. With two more wins, Charlotte will finish the season in eighth place with 45 points, with the added bonus of hosting the MLS Eastern Conference Wild Card Match at Bank of America Stadium.
Unlike last year, Charlotte’s hopes are still alive if they lose or draw the first match in Miami, but the playoff picture gets murkier. CF Montréal and either the Chicago Fire or New York City FC are guaranteed to finish the season with 41 or more points.
If you aren’t a fan of math, I’ll keep it simple: Charlotte needs to win tonight and then win again on Saturday, or win tonight, draw Miami at home, and hope a couple matches go their way on Saturday.
Win (two) and they’re in.
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