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Messi says no to 2026 World Cup — he's fully focused on Inter Miami

Inter Miami took to the pitch Saturday against New England at Gillette Stadium with Lionel Messi nearly 7,000 miles away in Beijing — no matter, the Revs still drew a season-high crowd of 36,235 just looking to get a glimpse of the (awful) visiting team that now houses the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.

If Messi had actually been in town, the 65,878-seat stadium would've been filled to capacity with fans forking out hundreds for tickets that usually cost tens. Miami is now an MLS traveling circus unmatched since the days of David Beckham's LA Galaxy — who'll watch MLS 360 when there's a "Messi Cam" tracking his every movement? 

But while MLS prepares for a transformational 2023 season once La Pulga arrives, the 2026 World Cup organizing committee has just been notified that they won't be able to bank on marketing the defending champions Argentina with their star attraction.

During an interview with Chinese media outlet Titan Sports, Messi reiterated a personal belief that 2022 was his last World Cup — he said he hoped to watch the 2026 event in the USA, Mexico and Canada as a spectator and nothing more. 

"I think not," Messi responded when asked about playing at the next World Cup. "This was my last World Cup. I will see how things go, but in principle no, I will not go to the next World Cup. I have not changed my mind about that. I'd like to be there to watch it, but I'm not going to participate."

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If everything goes really well in Miami, Messi could be playing there at that point in time. His two-and-a-half year contract with the club (reportedly paying him $53.7 million annually) runs through the 2025 season, but there's an option for 2026 (Messi will be 39 by then).

Maybe he's just learned from his PSG experience — where the Ultras spent every single waking moment of their existence weighing Messi's commitment to the club — by totally pledging himself to Miami right off the bat.

Messi, however, still seems a likely participant at the 2024 Copa América in the United States. He's still clearly enjoying his time with La Albiceleste, and after collecting three trophies in quick succession for the national team, he could add a fourth by beating Australia on Thursday in Beijing.   

It's the most beautiful trophy of them all. 

After playing the Socceroos, Argentina plays Indonesia in Central Jakarta on Monday, June 19. 

Messi's PSG contract expires on June 30, so he could potentially make his MLS debut on July 8 against D.C. United (Audi Field) or July 15 versus St. Louis (Citypark), but reports have hinted at a home match against Cruz Azul in Leagues Cup play on July 21 as his first appearance with the Herons. 

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