CHARLOTTE (CHARLOTTE SPORTS LIVE) — After months of speculation, Lionel Messi, arguably one of the greatest soccer players of all time, is expected to take the pitch at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte this Saturday.
In an interview after winning 2-0 against Peru in a World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday, Messi said “I will train, I will play our remaining upcoming match [against Charlotte FC]…”
According to the Miami Herald, Messi is on his way home from Peru and will not be available for Wednesday night’s game against Charlotte in Miami.
“We will evaluate not only Leo, but all players who are with their national teams when they return Thursday, as we are out of the playoffs, and we don’t want to run any risks,” Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said on Tuesday.
Messi, as it looks, is fit and healthy to play for Saturday’s contest in Bank of America Stadium, the Miami Herald said.
“You know, I love him. He’s everything,” Charlotte FC fan and member of Blue Furia CLT Leo Gomez said.
For Gomes, Messi is so much more than a soccer player – he’s a hero who has brought together not only the people of his home country of Argentina…but the world.
“It’s like we love him. He made 45 million people [happy], and he made a beautiful game. We are happy for life, and we are still happy, he said.
Just last week, Gomez watched Messi take the pitch in Argentina. This weekend, he and thousands of others are expected to see it happen once again, but this time at Bank of America stadium.
“How big of a deal would that be?” Queen City News asked Charlotte FC Chief Fan Officer Shawn McIntosh.
“To have an athlete like that coming to Charlotte – it’s a big deal. For us, we have a job to do,” he said. “We’ve got to beat them to hopefully make the playoffs, so for us that is out focus. But there is no hiding behind the fact that you are going to have an athlete here that is again arguably the greatest player of all time,” McIntosh said.
This comes at a pivotal moment for Charlotte FC. Two wins against Inter Miami CF would guarantee the team spot in playoffs for the very first time. Anything less than a single win means Charlotte would be eliminated.
“This is a sports city that’s been starved of playoff action for quite a number of years. So, in terms of just the whole outlook of Charlotte sports, there’s a lot of eyes on this match and for us being in our second season, we haven’t been shy about our goals. Our goals have been to make the playoffs and once you make the playoffs, anything can happen, but the goal is to get in there,” McIntosh said.
The significance of the upcoming matches is forcing die-hard Charlotte FC fans like Gomez to put their love for Messi aside.
“Messi, he my hero, but Charlotte is my team,” Gomez said.
This weekend, Gomez will be covering his freshly done Messi tattoo with the colors of his home team. “I have him on the back. Messi is everything but this is Charlotte baby, let’s go Charlotte,” he said.
With two matches remaining, both against Inter Miami, Charlotte FC has a chance to make the playoffs for the first time in team history.
The easiest route is to win both matches- the first one in Miami, the second one in Charlotte. This would guarantee the team finishes in eighth place with 45 points. That means CLTFC would host the single elimination wild card match between the #8 and #9 seeds.
However, if that doesn’t happen, there’s STILL a chance at the playoffs. For all of those scenarios, CLICK HERE.