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Leagues Cup: Inter Miami's road to the final

The Leagues Cup, the competition between the clubs from Major League Soccer and Liga MX, has been expanded this season to include all 47 teams from the two leagues.

The signing of Lionel Messi for Inter Miami has added star power to the competition and the Argentinian has guided them to the final of this tournament. Here, we chart their road to this point.

WhatLeagues Cup Final: Nashville vs. Inter Miami 
WhereGeodis Park, Nashville, Tennessee
When9 PM EST, Saturday, August 19th, 2023
How to watchMLS Season Pass, FS1
OddsNashville +210, Draw +250, Inter Miami +120

Messi guides team through group stages

The new format of the Leagues Cup saw teams play in three-team groups, with the top two progressing to the knockout stages.

Inter Miami began their campaign, and their first game with Lionel Messi, against Mexican side Cruz Azul. Robert Taylor put the Herons ahead before Uriel Antuna equalised for the Liga MX team.

Messi made his debut from the bench and scored a 94th minute free kick winner to send the Miami fans home happy.

In his second game, Messi impressed even more with two goals and an assist as Miami cruised past Atlanta 4-0 to reach the knockout stages.

More of the same in round of 32

Messi continued to impress in his third game for Inter Miami, scoring twice as they beat Orlando City 3-1 in the Leagues Cup round of 32.

Josef Martinez chipped in with another from the penalty spot after Cesar Araujo had gotten Orlando's goal.

Former Barcelona stars Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets also starred as the Herons cruised through to the next round of the competition.

Dramatic round of 16 clash comes down to penalties

Messi opened the scoring after just six minutes in Inter Miami's round of 16 matchup away to FC Dallas, but the home side went 3-1 up after goals from Facundo Quignon, Bernard Kamungo and Alan Velasco and it looked like it may be the end of the line for Miami.

Benjamin Cremaschi managed to get one back for the Herons, but their hope didn't last long as a Robert Taylor own goal saw Dallas re-establish a two-goal lead.

A Marco Farfan own-goal in the 80th minute gave Gerardo Martino's side a glimmer of hope before their talisman Messi once again produced the crucial moment, netting another direct free-kick in the 86th minute to send the match to a penalty shootout. 

Messi netted the first of the penalties and his teammates all found the net too, rendering Paxton Pomykal's miss for Dallas crucial, with Benjamin Cremaschi scoring the winning penalty to send the Herons through to the quarter-finals after a dramatic clash. 

Strong performance in final home game in quarters

Much of Inter Miami's success in this year's Leagues Cup has come on the road but they put on a show when they returned to Fort Lauderdale for their quarter-final against Charlotte.

Martinez opened the scoring after just 12 minutes from the penalty spot before a goal from Robert Taylor and an own goal by Adilson Malanda saw the Herons leap into a comfortable lead.

Miami limited their opponents to just two shots on target compared to their seven as they thoroughly dominated the clash, with Messi adding the cherry on top of an impressive performance with an 86th minute goal to make it 4-0 to the home team.

That victory set up a semi-final clash against Philadelphia, who are currently third in the Eastern Conference of the MLS, some 12 places above Inter Miami. 

Easy win to reach the final

After a comfortable win at home, Inter Miami faced a tough test against Philadelphia, who beat them 4-1 as recently as June, in the semi-final.

However the Herons are a different beast with Messi, Alba and Busquets aboard and again took an early lead, with Martinez making it 1-0 within three minutes.

Messi scored a casual long range effort to make it two before Alba got in on the act with another goal before half-time.

Alejandro Bedoya got one back for Philadelphia before David Ruiz rounded off the 4-1 win for the visitors, sending them to the final of a major competition for the first time.

Nashville stand in their way at +275 to win but with Messi and co in such fine form, it's hard to see past an Inter Miami team who are -110 to win the trophy and have made this tournament their own.

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