Has Lionel Messi Turned Inter Miami into 2023 MLS Cup Favorites?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Has Lionel Messi Turned Inter Miami into 2023 MLS Cup Favorites?

Everyone under the sun understood that Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami would change Major League Soccer forever. But even the most aggressive optimists probably couldn’t have predicted this

Messi’s tenure in MLS isn’t even two months old, and both Inter Miami and the entire league are feeling the ramifications of his arrival. The most direct effect of his addition? A complete reshaping of the 2023 MLS Cup Final picture. Some have even posited that he transforms Inter Miami into MLS Cup favorites. 

Of course, as you can see from the latest betting odds to win the 2023 MLS Cup, this isn’t exactly the case:

Pick To Win MLS CupBetOnlineBetUSBovada
FC Cincinnati+420+500+475
Los Angeles FC+600+600+500
Philadelphia Union+850+850+700
Inter Miami CF+900+900+900
New England Revolution+1100+1100+1100
St. Louis City SC+1100+1100+1100
Seattle Sounders+1200+1200+1200
Nashville SC+1400+1400+1400
Atlanta United FC+1600+1600+1600
Orlando City+2600+2600+2600
Austin FC+2600+2600+2600
Colmbus Crew+2600+2600+2600
Real Salt Lake+2800+2800+2800
FC Dallas+4400+4400+4400
San Jose Earthquakes+5000+5000+5000
Minnesota United+5000+5000+5000
Los Angeles Galaxy+8500+8500+7500
Vancouver Whitecaps+8500+8500+7500
New York City FC+8500+8500+7500
New York Red Bulls+10000+10000+8000
Kansas City+10000+10000+10000
CF Montreal+10000+10000+10000
Charlotte FC+10000+10000+10000
DC United+10000+10000+10000
Portland Timbers+10000+10000+10000
Chicago Fire+10000+10000+10000
Toronto FC+42000+50000+55000

While we wouldn’t throw these MLS Cup betting odds out the window, we also wouldn’t accept them as gospel. There’s a lot of matches left to play. The 2023 MLS Cup Final is scheduled to take place on Saturday, November 5, at 4 p.m. EST as of now. Our bettings odds on the MLS Cup are accurate entering Thursday, August 17. The best online sportsbooks in the United States will continue adjusting to the markets right up until the opening championship-round whistle this fall. We could feasibly see these MLS championship betting odds move in favor of Inter Miami (+900).

Heck, given all that Messi’s arrival is already doing for the club, we almost expect the MLS Cup betting lines to keep inching closer and closer to his team.

Inter Miami May Not be MLS Cup Favorites Right Now, But the Winds Are Trending in that Direction

Laying top-four odds to win the MLS Cup is nothing at which to sneeze. But Inter Miami’s ceiling is clearly much higher.

Messi is already dominating the USA competition. He has scored in just about every match in which he’s appeared. And he’s not just putting up gaudy individual outings, either. His entry into the rotation has elevated the team at large.

Inter Miami just beat Philadelphia 4-1 to secure a spot in the Leagues Cup Final against Nashville this Saturday, August 20. Odds have yet to drop for this match, but Messi and company are expected to be the decided favorites.

What’s more, Inter Miami has played so well with Messi that they may receive an invite to the Copa Libertadores, an annual international competition organized by CONMEBO, the federation that represents the highest level of South American club soccer. This report comes from TYC Sports, which also notes that Inter Miami would be the first ever MLS team to receive an invite to Copa Libertadores

This is a massive development no matter the circumstances. But it’s even bigger knowing Messi has appeared in just five matches for Inter Miami, including the Leagues Cup tournament. Though many consider MLS a joke, he’s clearly put his club not just on the domestic map, but on a global scale. 

Lionel Messi is Flat-Out Dominating the MLS Competition

Somehow, we haven’t even gotten to Messi's MLS performance yet. Let’s rectify that. 

Through five matches, he’s tallied eight goals. And no, that is not a typo. Messi has dropped multiple scores in three of his five appearances. Defenses continue to have no answer. 

In certain moments, Messi has even tested the strength of his leg. At least two of his scores have come way out in midfield. The precise angles he’s able to hit, specifically around the lower corners of the goal posts, from that far away remain brain-bending.

Inter Miami has the wins during this time to match up with Messi’ efforts. The club is 4-1-0 when he takes the pitch and now hasn’t suffered a loss in over a month. 

Their offense at large, meanwhile, has been absolutely filthy. Inter Miami has 19 goals as a team through Messi’s five appearances, outsourcing opponents by a total of 11 points. All of which raises an interesting question: Who are their biggest threats to Inter Miami winning the 2023 MLS Cup Final?

The Biggest Threats to Inter Miami Winning the 2023 MLS Cup 

FC Cincinnati (+420) continues clinging to the top spot in this category. They are tied for the best goal differential in the league and rank in the top five of both expected goals and expected goals allowed per 90 minutes.

Then, we have Los Angeles FC (+600), which continues to tantalize with an improving defense. We’re not sure we trust the offense, though. They have 13 combined losses and draws, in large part because they’ve struggled to generate separation after crossing midfield for stretches at a time.

The Philadelphia Union (+850) also stands in front of Inter Miami according to oddsmakers. Their 39 goals this season are tied for the third most in the league.

Other squads are worth keeping an eye on, too—even though Inter Miami is next up in the MLS Cup odds pecking order. 

The New England Revolution (+1100) might have the scariest top-to-bottom offense in existence. Nashville SC (+1400) is starting to piece together some truly terrifying defensive performances. The best online MLS sportsbooks have begun moving both St. Louis SC (+1100) and the Seattle Sounders (+1200) up the odds ladder, as well.

Did Inter Miami Wait Too Long to Make a Push as the MLS’s Best Team?

Looming over this entire discussion: Inter Miami’s record. They are a ghastly 5-3-14 at this writing, sitting dead last inside the Eastern Conference. The fact that they’re somehow a top-five MLS Cup team now speaks to how bettors have flocked toward the club following Messi’s arrival.

This is a precarious situation in which to be. Inter Miami has almost no margin for error. At the same time, that may be okay. They have looked head and shoulders above everybody else since Messi came to town.

Just look at what they did to the Philadelphia Union in the Leagues Cup semi final. Philly sits in front of them when looking at the latest 2023 MLS Cup odds, and yet, Inter Miami thrashed them 4-1.

Perhaps we’re caught up in the hype. The ground Inter Miami has to make up is no joke. But as we’ve already mentioned, almost everyone on the roster is playing better thanks to the attention Messi draws. This team has outstripped almost every opponent, some of whom were considered elite. 

And so, we believe it’s time to make the call many are still hesitant to make: The midseason addition of Lionel Messi is going to culminate in an MLS championship for Inter Miami.

Inter Miami To win the 2023 MLS Cupl

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

Online Sports Betting may receive compensation if you sign up through our links. Rest assured, we avoid biases and provide honest opinions on sportsbooks. Read more here.