CINCINNATI — Lionel Messi could be playing in Cincinnati this summer.
The Argentine forward and one of the world’s greatest players announced Wednesday he has decided to sign with Inter Miami, and although the deal has not been finalized, his expected summer arrival in MLS means a potential appearance at TQL Stadium.
FC Cincinnati will face Miami in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals Aug. 23, and a drawing Thursday set the game to take place in the Queen City.
Messi, who last played for Paris-Saint Germain, would be eligible to start playing for Miami after the summer transfer window opens July 5, and Open Cup rules indicate he would only need to be added to the team’s Cup roster by 2 p.m. the business day before a match.
Messi led Argentina to the World Cup championship in December and was named the tournament MVP as the “Golden Ball” winner. He also has earned recognition as the best player in the world nine times since 2009 in the form of the Ballon d’Or, World Player of the Year or Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year awards.
“That would be amazing to be able to play against him,” FCC forward Brandon Vazquez said in an interview on Morning Footy with CBS Sports Golazo. “I grew up with one of those big FatHead stickers in my room, growing up from the time I was a little kid until I was a teenager, so to be able to play against him would be incredible. For the league, it speaks for itself. It’s one of the biggest faces in soccer for all of soccer history, so it would be absolutely incredible for MLS, for U.S. soccer, for everything. It would be amazing.”
Cincinnati advanced to the semifinals with a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Tuesday, and Miami beat USL Championship side Birmingham Legion FC on Wednesday in the other Eastern bracket quarterfinal. The Orange and Blue made the semifinals in 2017 as a USL club but gave up a two-goal lead against New York Red Bulls at Nippert Stadium and lost, 3-2.
FCC currently is two wins away from its first trophy as an MLS team, and the Orange and Blue also are eight points ahead in the Supporters’ Shield standings as the top team in the league almost halfway through the season.
The draw Thursday also determined hosting priority for the U.S. Open Cup final. If FCC advances and Houston beats Real Salt Lake in the other semifinal, Cincinnati would host the final Sept. 27. Real Salt Lake received first priority to host the final, followed by Inter Miami and then FCC, so Houston cannot host.
Full ticket information for the semifinal match Aug. 23 has not yet been released, but FCC Season Ticket Members will have an exclusive window to purchase their seats for the match, followed by a presale for those who have made deposits on 2024 season tickets.
CBS Sports will be the exclusive home of the 2023 Open Cup semifinals and final. More broadcast information and match kickoff times will be announced at a later date.