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Soccer fans and A-list celebrities alike flocked to DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on July 21 for the biggest moment in the history of soccer on American soil.

World soccer icon Lionel Messi made his debut as the newest member of the Inter Miami MLS club. He was joined by Spanish legend Sergio Busquets, his longtime teammate during their years at Barcelona, who was also making his Inter Miami debut.

Messi and Busquets started the game on the bench, and the TV broadcast consistently panned to the Argentinian superstar’s face in eager anticipation of his debut. It came just five minutes into the second half, and the stadium erupted as the home team’s new No. 10 approached the sideline.

Inter Miami led 1-0 when Messi entered the game, thanks to a display of individual brilliance by Robert Taylor just before halftime. Messi’s team had somehow managed to come away with the first-half lead despite an onslaught of chances for the Mexico City club team Cruz Azul.

Messi’s first touches brought the crowd to its feet, and elated cheers rang throughout the stadium each time the ball came to him. However, it was Cruz Azul that first found the back of the net in the second half. Uriel Antuna tied the game at 1-1, finally beating Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender, who up to that point had been outstanding as his club’s last line of defense.

Leo Messi pushed his new team forward on multiple occasions and looked to threaten the Cruz Azul goalkeeper each time he picked up a pass and drove at the defense in his phenomenal, trademark fashion.

The stage was perfectly set for a moment of magic to open this next chapter of the Argentine sensation’s legendary career on a high note after Messie was fouled on the edge of the box in the 92nd minute. Soccer fans around the world held their breath as Messi got set for a free kick. The moment could not have been scripted any better.

Messi stood focused. He then stepped up to curl a left-footed blast over the wall and into the back of the net in the game’s final moments.

Inter Miami won 2-1, and the crowd got a perfect ending to a remarkable story in which Messi announced his U.S. arrival in the only way he knew how -- with the magic of his left foot.

Next up for Messi’s Inter Miami team is the second game of the Leagues Cup group stage against Atlanta United on Tuesday, July 25. To prep fans for this match, I will offer some exciting picks and parlays related to Messi’s second appearance with his new club.

Inter Miami vs Atlanta United Odds

Moneyline: Inter Miami +137 | Draw +210 | Atlanta United +180
1st Goal: Inter Miami -115 | No Goal +1000 | Atlanta United +110
Both teams to score: Yes -154, No +110
Draw No Bet: Inter Miami -138 | Atlanta United +100
Double Chance:  Inter Miami or Draw -250 | Inter Miami or Atlanta United -300 | Draw or Atlanta United -175
Total Goals: 1.5: Over -400 | Under +260
Total Goals: 2.5: Over -125 | Under -110
Total Goals: 3.5: Over +190 | Under -275
Total Goals: 4.5: Over +425 | Under -800

Inter Miami vs Atlanta United Preview

Date: Tuesday, July 25
7:30 p.m. ET
TV channel:
MLS Season Pass
Live stream:
MLS Season Pass (Apple TV+)

The Leagues Cup tournament features teams from MLS and Mexico’s LIGA MX. A total of 15 three-team groups take part in round-robin play before the tournament moves on to its knockout rounds. Messi and his Inter Miami team will face Atlanta United in the second game of group-stage play, and a win will clinch first place in the group, guaranteeing Inter a spot in the knockout rounds.

Atlanta United currently sits in seventh place in the MLS Eastern Conference, while Inter Miami is at the very bottom of the 15-team conference. However, Inter Miami fell into last place long before the arrival of Messi and his European teammates. It is a very different team now.

Over the first half of the MLS season, Atlanta has been a middle-of-the-road team, losing its last two games before the break after securing victories in the two games prior to that slide.

Atlanta’s star is young Thiago Almada, who was a teammate of Messi’s on the 2022 World Cup championship team from Argentina. Almada, a late call-up as an injury replacement, only played six minutes during that World Cup tournament, but he has been pivotal for Atlanta since joining the team for an MLS record price in February  2022.

To date, Almada has had a hand in 18 Atlanta goals, scoring eight times and assisting on 10 others from his attacking midfield role. He often creates space and makes things happen for the Five Stripes, and he could easily take advantage of a disorganized back four if Inter Miami fails to tighten up on defense.

Inter Miami vs Atlanta United Predictions and Pick

Anytime Goalscorer

Having witnessed his debut on Friday night, I think it would almost be disrespectful not to expect Lionel Messi to score a goal against Atlanta.

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but reporters are predicting that Messi will start this game instead of coming off the bench as he did against Cruz Azul. That means he’ll have more opportunities, more chances to create space for himself, and a lot more minutes to force Atlanta to keep him at bay.

Messi wasn’t dealing with any injuries before Friday's game and only sat out the first half because he had just returned from vacation and might not yet be up to full speed. Inter Miami was cautious not to push Messi into a full-length game before he was ready.

Atlanta United has allowed the second-most goals in the MLS Eastern Conference this season, yielding 39 while scoring only 42. The team’s poor defensive showing has cost it multiple times, which means we might see an end-to-end game because Miami has similar problems at the back.

The Pick: Lionel Messi to score anytime (+110)

Anytime Goalscorer

There’s no doubt that Thiago Almada will be playing against one of his childhood heroes when he lines up against Messi. A player reminiscent of Messi in terms of his own budding career, the 22-year-old Almada has his best years ahead of him.

These two Argentinian attackers are at opposite ends of their professional careers, and Almada will be eager to prove himself on the same field as his 2022 international teammate.

Given Inter Miami's defensive struggles against Cruz Azul, which have also been evident throughout the MLS season, the skillful midfielder Almada should have ample opportunities to maneuver and create scoring chances.

I like Almada to be the most dangerous man on the field for Atlanta and pick up a goal in the process.

The Pick: Thiago Almada to score anytime (+260)

Total Goals

This could be an exciting area in which to wager on this game. The first 15 to 20 minutes of Inter Miami’s game against Cruz Azul were remarkably fast-paced, and there was constant action at both ends of the field.

The same could be true for this game, as both teams will certainly allow scoring opportunities, given their past defensive struggles.

Josef Martinez and Leonardo Campana are both capable strikers, but others have had difficulty getting the ball to them this season. With Lionel Messi in town, there should be no such trouble, because one of the most underrated aspects of Messi’s game is his ability to draw in defenders and find open teammates.

Atlanta also has two strong finishers of their own in Almada and team goal-scoring leader Giorgos Giakoumakis from Greece.

Both teams are able to find the net, so I expect a healthy share of goals in what will be another must-watch event for soccer fans.

The Pick: Over 2.5 Goals (-155)

Best Inter Miami vs Atlanta United Same Game Parlay Picks: 3-Leg SGP (+650)

Anytime Goalscorer

Leg-1 SGP Pick: Lionel Messi to score anytime (+110)

Anytime Goalscorer

Leg-2 SGP Pick: Thiago Almada to score anytime (+260)

Total Goals

Leg-3 SGP Pick: Over 2.5 Goals (-155)

Odds are subject to change*

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