Although Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF have been excluded from the MLS playoff race, their last two regular-season matches could have a significant impact on the postseason race in the Eastern Conference, USA TODAY reports.
Inter Miami’s opponent on Wednesday night — Charlotte FC — is one of five teams chasing the two remaining playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. CF Montréal paces that group with 41 points and sits in eighth place. Behind CF Montréal are the New York Red Bulls (40 points), Chicago Fire FC (40), Charlotte FC (39) and New York City FC (38).
Working in Charlotte FC‘s favor is that it has two regular-season games remaining, instead of one for each of their fellow playoff chasers.
Inter Miami, meanwhile, can play the role of spoiler. Its playoff hopes were dashed in a 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on Oct. 7 but plays Charlotte FC twice in four days due to a rescheduling quirk. A solid finish to the season can build further momentum toward 2024 when Messi and Inter Miami will be expected to be a title contenders for both the MLS Cup and the CONCACAF Champions Cup.