In an exhilarating showdown at GEODIS Park, the 2023 Leagues Cup final lived up to its high-profile expectations. The intense match between underdogs Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF unfolded as a breakneck, hard-fought contest, culminating in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. Despite Nashville's resilient efforts, it was Inter Miami CF who clinched their first-ever title in club history.
Inter Miami CF had a forgettable start to the Major League Soccer (MLS) regular season, but they improved their roster by adding Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba. Here we look at how they won the inaugural Leagues Cup trophy.
During the Leagues Cup 2023 group stage, Inter Miami CF was grouped in South 3 alongside Cruz Azul from LIGA MX and MLS competitor Atlanta United. The tournament marked Lionel Messi's MLS debut, and in Miami's first game, he made a significant impact by scoring a late free-kick winner, leading the team to a 2-1 victory against Cruz Azul. The subsequent match against Atlanta United saw Inter Miami's dominant performance, securing a convincing 4-0 win. Both Messi and Robert Taylor shone, each contributing with a brace.
Having topped their group, Inter Miami advanced to the elimination rounds:
In the round of 32, they faced off against Orlando City SC and emerged triumphant with a 3-1 victory. Messi continued his impressive form, netting another brace. The round of 16 presented a tough challenge against FC Dallas. In a thrilling encounter, the match ended in a 4-4 draw after regular time, and Inter Miami ultimately secured their place in the next round through a penalty shootout.
Moving on to the quarterfinals, Miami made quick work of Charlotte FC, securing a comfortable 4-0 win. The goals came from a variety of sources, including Martinez, Taylor, an own goal, and Messi. In the semifinals against Philadelphia Union, Inter Miami continued to impress, dominating the game with a 4-1 victory. Goals from Martinez, Messi, Alba, and Ruiz solidified their convincing performance.
Inter Miami became the inaugural champions of Leagues Cup following a dramatic penalty shootout. The game saw Lionel Messi's pivotal goal in the 25th minute, but Nashville's Fafà Picault equalised with a deflected header. Both teams had opportunities, including a close call by Inter Miami's Leonardo Campana in the final minute of the game, which unbelievably hit the post.
The match ultimately reached a penalty shoot-out, where Inter Miami emerged victorious, thanks to goals by Messi and Campana and. This victory marks a stellar beginning for Messi's American journey, crowning him as the most decorated player in soccer history. Inter Miami CF, led by Gerardo "Tata" Martino, has transformed into a top-tier team, earning them a direct entry into the knockout rounds of the CONCACAF Champions Cup 2024.