One of the best soccer players in history now plays in the United States. World Cup champion Lionel Messi scored the game-winning goal for Inter Miami CF during the 94th minute of the team’s Leagues Cup opening match against Liga MX’s Cruz Azul. Inter Miami won 2-1.
Messi scored the beautiful goal off a free kick outside of the goal box after being fouled by Cruz Azul in stoppage time. After the goal, the Argentine star celebrated with his teammates, and later his children.
“It was a great game for us. We wanted to start this way, winning for the people who came. We knew it would be good to win the first game, and thankfully we could. I’m so happy,” he told an Apple TV reporter post-match. “I got the last play, and tried to score as I always do. I got lucky that it was a goal and that we gained this first win.”
Messi took the pitch during the 52nd minute as Miami was up 1-0, replacing No. 30 Benjamin Cremaschi. Also entering the match alongside Messi were his teammates Sergio Busquets and Josef Martinez. Cruz Azul’s Uriel Antuna scored the equalizer in the 65th minute before Messi’s historic first goal with the team.
Earlier in the game, Messi was spotted celebrating with his teammates after Robi Taylor opened the scoreboard in the 44th minute during the match’s first half.
Prior to the match, Becky G performed the national anthem. Los Angeles Laker LeBron James, Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian, Marc Anthony, Serena Williams, Emilio, and Gloria Estefan were all spotted in the audience to witness the historic moment at the sold-out game at DRV PNK Stadium.
Messi’s arrival in the league marks a historical turning point for soccer in the United States and marks one of the most significant player acquisitions in MLS history. Messi signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the team valued between $50 and $60 million, according to ESPN. He was presented in Miami during a massive celebration in the city on Sunday.
After his signing, Inter Miami’s co-owner David Beckham — who also made a splash when he joined Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 from Real Madrid — signed Messi’s former Barcelona FC teammate Sergio Busquets to join the team. Gerardo “Tata” Martino is Inter Miami’s coach.
“I might actually cry when I see him walk onto the pitch,” Beckham told Good Morning America about seeing Mess play Friday. “I’ve realized as I get older I get more emotional… The moment I see Leo step out onto the pitch in front of our fans, in front of this nation… I’ll be emotional for sure.”
Messi spent the majority of his career playing for Barcelona, where he made more than 500 appearances and scored 474 goals through 2021. He later spent two years at Paris Saint-Germain, before his acquisition by Inter Miami CF this year. He’s been long-considered the best player in the world.
Last year, Messi also led the Argentinian National Team to win the FIFA World Cup against France, marking his first cup win. He was named the World Cup’s best player, scoring seven goals throughout the tournament.
Messi’s debut also comes during a pivotal time for Major League Soccer as it establishes itself as a leading sports in world football and in the U.S. following a broadcasting rights partnership with Apple TV via MLS Season Pass. On Friday, the streaming service debuted Fuerza Régida’s “Tiki Taka Taco,” a song to celebrate the launch of the Leagues Cup, a new tournament that brings together all of the teams of the U.S.’ MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.
This story was updated on July 21 at 10:18 p.m. ET to include Messi’s first goal.