CHICAGO — Lionel Messi will not be making an appearance at Soldier Field Thursday night after all.

Inter Miami FC did not list the Argentinian superstar on their starting lineup card ahead of the game, and according to a reporter with the Miami Herald, Messi was not with the club when they arrived at Soldier Field Thursday evening ahead of their matchup against Chicago Fire FC.

Messi is the reason Soldier Field sold out ahead of the Wednesday night game in what some could argue is the biggest regular season match for the Fire since they started playing in MLS in 1998.

Ticket prices were increased by the club once Messi joined Inter Miami CF back in July in accordance with others in the league as demand on the secondary market soared. Yet, that has softened as the midfielder has been struggling with what’s been described as a “scar tissue” injury the past few weeks.

Messi was listed as questionable for the match by Inter Miami CF in their pregame notes after missing four of the last five matches. Messi’s last appearance came on Sept. 20 against Toronto FC, starting the match but playing just 37 minutes before heading off the pitch.

Because of that, Chicago Fire FC decided to offer all fans attending Wednesday’s match the option to have a $250 credit put towards 2024 season tickets or a $50 account credit for future matches.

A special halftime performance was also teased by the club on Tuesday.

One way or the other, a crowd much bigger than would usually attend a Chicago Fire FC game at Soldier Field will be in attendance for the match with Inter Miami CF. It’s a big moment for the franchise that is in its fourth MLS season under the ownership of Joe Mansueto that’s looking to find its footing in the Chicago sports landscape.

It’s the chance for the club to get in front of a lot of people who haven’t seen them play live since they made the move to Soldier Field in 2020 as the Fire are in a fight for an MLS Cup Playoff spot.

“I think it’s a big moment. You know when you play international matches like
we have in the past and you bring Manchester United and fill Soldier Field, those are the
moments as a team that you have to take advantage,” said Fire manager Frank Klopas. “There are Chicago fans, sports fans, that might not always come to the games, but you have an opportunity where they come out to see probably one of the best players in the world.

“But also, it’s an opportunity now for us to showcase the quality and the players that we have. So
it is an opportunity for us, really, to take advantage of a moment like this, and you know, get
people that maybe come, you know, once or twice a year to games, games like this, where they
can say: Hey, this was an exciting game, this is a great team, really exciting team, it was a really
exciting game; so why not buy season tickets next year.

“Moments like this, you have to take advantage of.”

Forward Xherdan Shaqiri, whose international career has earned a following of its own among supporters of MLS, hopes the Fire can help to grow their current base of fans from those who’re coming to Soldier Field thanks to Messi.

“That’s why it’s more important that we perform well and put a good performance, not only for the club, for ourselves, but also for the fans who maybe come for the first time in the stadium to watch soccer,” said Shaqiri. We want to play offensive and we want to score a lot of goals. This is what I like to play, too.

“I hope we can give them a good game, first of all, and, well, the most important thing is that we
win the game; and that yeah, the people go back home happy and that next time they are going
to come again and cheer us more.”

Even if a player on the opposing team is the reason they went to the game in the first place.