Western Conference leaders LAFC re-discovered their form after a recent slump with a 3-1 home victory over Houston Dynamo on Sunday.

Carlos Vela scored a double, with both goals coming from the penalty spot, as LAFC secured only their second victory from their past eight games.

LAFC have a 15-1-0 record when scoring first this season although Houston leveled the game in the 24th minute from Corey Baird's classy goal after Vela netted an eighth-minute spotkick.

Vela restored LAFC's advantage from the spot on half-time after Fabrice Picault's handball was spotted by the VAR, with Ryan Hollingshead lifting home a third in the 52nd minute.

LAFC remain top of the Western Conference, nine points ahead of second-placed Austin, with two more matchdays until the postseason begins.

Gonzalo Higuain scored a 94th-minute winner to boost Inter Miami's playoffs hopes with a 3-2 road win over DC United, who had Christian Benteke net his first goal for the club.

Higuain struck the winner in the fourth of eight stoppage-time minutes, with a first-time strike from Deandre Yedlin's low cross from the right.

Benteke had opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a back-post left-foot volley, before Leonard Campana's double for Inter.

Taxiarchis Fountas equalised in the 57th minute before Higuain's late winner, which means Inter are seventh in the Eastern Conference, moving above Columbus Crew, who conceded again late in a 1-1 draw with Portland Timbers on Sunday.

The Crew were denied all three points with Santiago Moreno lashing home a 95th-minute equaliser for the Timbers, after Kevin Molino's first-half strike.

Javier Hernandez missed another spotkick before Riqui Puig took over penalty duties to net a season-saving 99th-minute equaliser in the LA Galaxy's 1-1 draw at Nashville on Saturday.

Nashville had gone ahead in the 28th minute from Hany Mukhtar's penalty but Hernandez was the centre of attention once again.

The former Manchester United forward failed to convert a 97th-minute penalty attempting a Panenka last Sunday against Sporting KC, spurning a hat-trick and winner.

Hernandez stepped up again in the 55th minute after being bundled over by Shaquell Moore but had his low shot tipped around the post by goalkeeper Joel Willis.

With their season on the line, the Galaxy earned a late reprieve after a penalty was awarded for a Walker Zimmerman handball following VAR review, with the defender receiving a second yellow card.

But Riqui Puig grabbed the ball and took the responsibility instead of Hernandez, before firing just beyond Willis' fingertips for the goal.

The result means the Galaxy are winless in three games and sit eighth in the Western Conference on 40 points.

Western Conference leaders LAFC stumbled again, suffering their fourth loss in their past five games with a 2-1 defeat to Dallas.

Jesus Ferreira boosted his claims on a spot in USA's World Cup squad with a double for Dallas, while LAFC were reduced to 10 men after Ryan Hollingshead's 13th-minute red card.

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union showed why they are arguably the best team in the MLS with a 5-1 thrashing of Orlando City securing their fifth straight victory.

Lewis Morgan scored a 78th-minute penalty to help New York Red Bulls secure a 2-1 home win over New England to firm up their grip on third in the east.

New York City suffered their seventh defeat from their past nine games, going down 1-0 to Charlotte.

Brenner scored a hat-trick as Cincinnati extended their unbeaten run to nine games, winning 6-0 over San Jose Earthquakes

Thiago Almada fired in a golazo as Atlanta United defeated Toronto 4-2, while Inter Miami slumped to a third straight loss with a 3-1 defeat at Chicago Fire.

Seattle Sounders toppled Austin 3-0, Houston Dynamo and Sporting KC drew 0-0, Portland Timbers edged Minnesota United 1-0, Colorado Rapids beat Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 and Real Salt Lake and DC United ended goalless.

Reigning MLS Cup champions New York City slumped to their fifth loss from their past six games as Christian Benteke debuted for DC United who claimed an upset 2-1 win on Wednesday.

City had ended a three-game losing run with a 2-0 win at Chicago Fire 10 days before losing to Orlando City on the weekend but their poor form continued at Red Bull Arena.

Ola Kamara tapped in from point blank range to give the visitors at 24th-minute lead, but Heber side-footed in an equalizer three minutes later.

Steven Birnbaum restored United's lead with a header from a Martin Rodriguez free-kick in the 57th minute and City could not find a response with David Ochoa palming away Gedion Zelalem's 95th-minute effort.

The win is Wayne Rooney's second since taking over at United who are still last in the Eastern Conference, while it sees City slide down to fourth in the east.

Riqui Puig scored a spectacular late equalizer with a long-range curler after a give-and-go to earn LA Galaxy a 2-2 draw away to Toronto.

Douglas Costa had put the Galaxy into a 24th-minute lead before Toronto hit back with second-half goals to Jesus Jimenez and Filippo Bernardeschi before the Spaniard's 89th-minute strike.

Riqui Puig was making only his third appearance for the Galaxy following his August move from Barcelona.

The result dents star-studded Toronto's playoffs aspirations, leaving them 10th in the east, while the Galaxy are eighth in the west.

Philadelphia Union became the second team behind LAFC to book their postseason berth with a 4-1 home win over Atlanta United.

Julian Carranza, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag and Nathan Harriel were all among the goals for Union who are eight points clear in the east.

New York Red Bulls moved up to third in the east with a 1-0 win at second-placed Montreal with Lewis Morgan hitting the winner in the 43rd minute.

LAFC suffered a shock 2-1 loss to lowly Houston Dynamo, who condemning the Western Conference leaders to their third straight defeat.

Inter Miami slumped to back-to-back losses with a 1-0 defeat at Columbus Crew, while New England's winless run extended to four games after a goalless draw with struggling Chicago Fire who snapped a three-game losing run.

Hany Mukhtar netted a hat-trick as Nashville beat Colorado Rapids 4-1, while Orlando City came from two goals down to defeat Seattle Sounders 3-2.

Real Salt Lake proved too good for Minnesota United 3-0 and Portland Timbers moved into the west's top seven with a narrow win against second-placed Austin 2-1.

Reigning MLS Cup champions New York City slumped to their fifth loss from their past six games as Christian Benteke debuted for DC United who claimed an upset 2-1 win on Wednesday.

City had ended a three-game losing run with a 2-0 win at Chicago Fire 10 days before losing to Orlando City on the weekend but their poor form continued at Red Bull Arena.

Ola Kamara tapped in from point blank range to give the visitors at 24th-minute lead, but Heber side-footed in an equalizer three minutes later.

Steven Birnbaum restored United's lead with a header from a Martin Rodriguez free-kick in the 57th minute and City could not find a response with David Ochoa palming away Gedion Zelalem's 95th-minute effort.

The win is Wayne Rooney's second since taking over at United who are still last in the Eastern Conference, while it sees City slide down to fourth in the east.

Riqui Puig scored a spectacular late equalizer with a long-range curler after a give-and-go to earn LA Galaxy a 2-2 draw away to Toronto.

Douglas Costa had put the Galaxy into a 24th-minute lead before Toronto hit back with second-half goals to Jesus Jimenez and Filippo Bernardeschi before the Spaniard's 89th-minute strike.

Riqui Puig was making only his third appearance for the Galaxy following his August move from Barcelona.

The result dents star-studded Toronto's playoffs aspirations, leaving them 10th in the east, while the Galaxy are eighth in the west.

Philadelphia Union became the second team behind LAFC to book their postseason berth with a 4-1 home win over Atlanta United.

Julian Carranza, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag and Nathan Harriel were all among the goals for Union who are eight points clear in the east.

New York Red Bulls moved up to third in the east with a 1-0 win at second-placed Montreal with Lewis Morgan hitting the winner in the 43rd minute.

LAFC suffered a shock 2-1 loss to lowly Houston Dynamo, who condemning the Western Conference leaders to their third straight defeat.

Inter Miami slumped to back-to-back losses with a 1-0 defeat at Columbus Crew, while New England's winless run extended to four games after a goalless draw with struggling Chicago Fire who snapped a three-game losing run.

Hany Mukhtar netted a hat-trick as Nashville beat Colorado Rapids 4-1, while Orlando City came from two goals down to defeat Seattle Sounders 3-2.

Real Salt Lake proved too good for Minnesota United 3-0 and Portland Timbers moved into the west's top seven with a narrow win against second-placed Austin 2-1.

Both teams ended up with a red card in the New York Red Bulls' 3-1 home win against Inter Miami on Saturday night, where an early Gonzalo Higuain goal was not enough for the visitors to nab any points against their Eastern Conference foes.

Higuain opened the scoring in the 19th minute with an absolute rocket, firing his direct free kick to the goalkeeper-side of the wall and into the top corner.

While that gave Miami the momentum, it was ripped away 10 minutes later when Alejandro Pozuelo was shown a straight red card, putting the away side on the back foot the rest of the way.

Lewis Morgan's goal in the 43rd minute ensured the teams would head into the break all tied up, and Daniel Edelman made it 2-1 for the Red Bulls just eight minutes into the second half.

A second yellow card to Kyle Duncan turned it into a 10-on-10 match, but 19-year-old substitute Caden Clark was able to give New York some breathing room in the 74th minute, building an eight-point gap between his fourth-placed side and fifth-placed Orlando City in the East standings.

The Red Bulls are still 10 points adrift of the conference-leading Philadelphia Union, who enjoyed a 6-0 smashing of the Colorado Rapids in front of their home fans.

Daniel Gadzag netted a hat-trick, giving him 11 goals in his past nine games, and 16 for the season, which ties him for the second-most in the league.

The one-sided beatdown included a 26-to-five shot count, while Philadelphia also controlled 59 per cent of the possession.

The Houston Dynamo – the worst team in the Western Conference this season – nearly pulled off an upset away from home against third-placed Minnesota, but ultimately went down 2-1.

Houston opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time through Corey Baird, and they held their 1-0 lead until the final stages when an own goal from Fafa Picault tied things up in the 79th minute. Minnesota then stole all three points with Luis Amarilla's 84th-minute winner.

Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew are fighting it out for the fringe playoff sports in the Eastern Conference, and they could not be separated in their 2-2 draw. 

Columbus – who only had 0.43 expected goals in the game, compared to 1.36 for Cincinnati – made it 1-1 in the 74th minute with Derick Etienne's leveller, but Cincinnati took the lead straight back three minutes later through Matt Miazga. Steven Moreira would salvage a point for the Crew with nearly the last touch of the game in the 96th minute.

An Italian one-two punch lifted Toronto to a 2-0 win over Charlotte, with Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernadeschi both striking in the second half.

Montreal received two early goals courtesy of Ismael Kone and Romell Quioto and were able to defend them for a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire, while Sporting Kansas City edged fellow Western Conference cellar-dwellers the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0.

In the late window, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake fought out a 1-1 draw, and Hany Mukhtar grabbed another two assists to help Nashville SC handle the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0. Mukhtar now has 16 goals and 11 assists in 27 appearances.

Coming off his recent standout performance against Toronto FC, Reggae Boy and Inter Miami CF defender Damion Lowe has been named to the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi for Week 26 of the 2022 MLS regular season.

Gonzalo Higuain would be delighted if Lionel Messi were to join Inter Miami, though the former Real Madrid striker has no inside information.

Messi has previously been linked with a switch to Major League Soccer, with a move across the Atlantic having been mooted as a potential option once the 35-year-old leaves Paris Saint-Germain, who he joined from Barcelona in August 2021.

He signed a two-year deal, with an option for a third, at PSG. While his first season in France ultimately proved underwhelming, Messi started the new campaign with a double and an assist in a 5-0 rout of Clermont, before playing the full match in a 5-2 victory over Montpellier on Saturday.

Asked if his former Argentina team-mate would be open to joining Miami, which with its Hispanic population would seem an ideal destination for Messi, Higuain said in a news conference: "With Leo I haven't spoken lately.

"He has a contract in Paris and I do not know whether he will eventually come here. I already had the opportunity to play alongside him for nine years."

 

Asked if Messi's arrival would mean Higuain, whose deal with Miami runs out at the end of the 2022 MLS season, would stay on in Florida, the 34-year-old added: "Well, I do not know, I do not know.

"If that happens, we will see what decision I will make. In December I will let you guys know my decision but now you have to be patient.

"I do not close any door, so we will see what happens. We will also see if he finally joins us, although I do not have any certainty about that."

Los Angeles FC showed why they are the MLS' best team this season as they hammered Charlotte 5-0 to move six points clear atop the Western Conference, with a game in hand.

LAFC controlled the first half, creating 12 shots to Charlotte's four, but after 45 minutes the sides went into the half-time break locked at 0-0 as the home side's attacks continued to falter in the final third.

Whatever the advice was during the break seemed to work a treat, with Jesus Murillo finding the breakthrough in the 49th minute when he headed home a stylish lofted through ball from Diego Palacios. That opened the floodgates, with Jose Cifuentes making it 2-0 10 minutes later, and Cifuentes then turned distributor in the 73rd minute to set up Carlos Vela for 3-0.

Cristian Arango got in on the fun to put home LAFC's fourth in the 76th minute, and an own goal in stoppage time from Charlotte captain Anton Walkes completed the rout.

Earlier in the day, it was Orlando City jumping up into the Eastern Conference's top-six with a 1-0 upset win away from home against New York Red Bulls.

Uruguay's Facundo Torres netted the game's only goal in the 17th minute to make it five matches without a win for the Red Bulls, who still sit fourth in the East.

In a back-and-forth contest, Cincinnati came back from an early 1-0 deficit to lead 2-1 at half-time through goals to Brandon Vasquez and Brenner, only to be denied the three points by an Andrew Gutman equaliser in the 83rd minute.

The East's bottom side DC United continued to struggle on their way to a 1-0 away loss against the New England Revolution, while the top side in the East, the Philadelphia Union, made it look easy as they treated their home fans to a 4-1 pummelling of the Chicago Fire.

Inter Miami held onto the seventh and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with their 3-2 win against New York City, thanks in large part to Alejandro Pozuelo's brace, with one assist coming from Gonzalo Higuain.

Austin FC came back from 3-1 down at half-time to steal a 4-3 win against Sporting Kansas City, with Sebastian Driussi netting the winner in the 94th minute, while Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne injected some Italian flavour with a goal each to help Toronto FC defeat the Portland Timbers 3-1.

The struggling Colorado Rapids will be the more pleased of the two sides after a 1-1 draw against the Colombus Crew, and a first-half double from FC Dallas' Jesus Ferreira was the catalyst in a 4-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes.

CF Montreal's Romell Quioto scored a penalty and missed a penalty in a 3-2 win against the Houston Dynamo to strengthen their second-placed position in the East, and a four-goal first half from Los Angeles Galaxy – including a goal and an assist for Chicharito – was more than enough to prevail 5-2 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Italy international Lorenzo Insigne netted his first goal in the MLS as Toronto won a seven-goal thriller 4-3 over Nashville on Saturday, while Gareth Bale was on the scoresheet again for LAFC.

The 31-year-old winger fired in Toronto's fourth goal to make it 4-2 in the 77th minute with a near-post strike from just outside the box.

Insigne, making his third MLS appearance for Toronto, showed his class to create a pocket of space for himself before opening up his body to fire past Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis.

The goal headlined an entertaining contest which helped Toronto claim their seventh win of the season as they seek to mount a late-season charge.

Jonathan Osorio rifled Toronto in a 19th-minute lead but Hany Mukhtar's penalty squared it up in the 41st minute. Osorio restored Toronto's lead by tapping in Richie Laryea's low ball across goal, yet Nashville were level by half-time when Teal Bunbury glanced in off the post from a corner.

Filippo Bernardeschi put Toronto up again with an emphatic 54th-minute penalty before Insigne's moment with just under quarter of an hour to go. Walker Zimmerman headed in a late goal from Mukhtar's corner but Nashville could not find an equaliser as Toronto claimed their first road win in 378 days.

Bale, making his fourth appearance for his new club, netted his second MLS goal in LAFC's 4-1 victory against Real Salt Lake.

The Walsh international came on in the 64th minute with LAFC 3-1 up after Cristian Arango's double and added the fourth with a classy solo goal. Bale ran down the right flank, beating away two defenders, before tucking into the box and finding his favoured left foot for a trademark strike.

Cincinnati made a statement with a strong 3-1 home win against Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union.

All three of Cincinnati's goals came in the second half, after Brenner had a first-goal strike disallowed by the VAR. Brandon Vazquez, Brenner and Alvaro Barreal netted for Cincinnati, who move up to sixth, while Paxton Aaronson scored a late consolation for Union.

Under-performing New England snapped their six-game winless run to revive their playoffs hopes with a 3-0 victory at Orlando City.

Matt Polster, Wilfrid Kaptoum and Henry Kessler got the goals, with Carles Gil grabbing his 12th assist of the season for the latter's strike.

New York City were unable to capitalise on Philadelphia's loss, going down 3-2 at Columbus Crew, for whom Lucas Zelarayan scored a brace.

Gonzalo Higuain got on the scoresheet as Inter Miami rallied from behind to twice to manage a 2-2 draw at Montreal.

Bottom club DC United held New York Red Bulls to a 0-0 draw, while Chicago Fire made it four wins in five games with a 3-2 victory at Charlotte.

In the west, Javier Hernandez netted a late double but it was not enough for LA Galaxy who went down 4-2 at Sporting KC.

Gyasi Zardes scored a hat-trick as Colorado Rapids edged Minnesota United 4-3, Austin and San Jose Earthquakes drew 3-3 and Portland Timbers and Dallas both scored late in a 1-1 draw.

Montreal scored twice in the final two minutes to rally from behind to claim a 2-1 victory away to Columbus Crew in the MLS on Wednesday, in a game delayed by inclement weather.

Lucas Zelarayan had fired the Crew into a 14th-minute lead with a low shot but Montreal hit back late, to help them move into third in the Eastern Conference.

Kei Kamara nodded in Alistair lex Johnston's 89th-minute corner, before Joel Waterman got in behind the defence from Lassi Lappalainen's lofted pass to squeeze home the winner in the 94th minute.

Inter Miami breathed life into their season with a 1-0 road win over San Jose Earthquakes to move up to eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Juan Mota's spectacular left-foot strike in the 12th minute was the difference, while Gonzalo Higuain's skill went unrewarded after a mazy run early in the second half.

Charlotte stayed ahead of Inter with a 3-0 home victory over DC United moving them up to seventh in the east.

Steven Birnbaum's 13th-minute own goal separated the sides, before second-half strikes from Karol Swiderski and Quinn McNeil within four minutes settled the contest.

Portland Timbers and Nashville drew 1-1 keeping both sides in the middle of the Western Conference standings.

A crazy day in MLS saw two 4-4 draws, with Phil Neville complaining Inter Miami had "defended like little boys" as they were held by FC Cincinnati.

Inter required a 97th-minute equaliser from Christopher McVey to rescue a point, despite having led 3-2 entering the final 10 minutes thanks to a first-half Gonzalo Higuain hat-trick.

Brandon Vazquez scored twice to turn the game on its head, leaving Neville furious despite McVey's last-gasp intervention.

"We defended like little boys, we defended naively, we didn't compete, we lacked discipline and concentration," the former Manchester United and Everton defender said. "And that's unacceptable, unacceptable.

"Simple balls into the box we didn't deal with. Simple concentration bits we didn't deal with.

"We are in the stage of the season where concentration is the main thing, concentration will get you to win games of football, and it's not going to be easy; you've just got to defend and do the right things all the time, and defensively we were as poor as we have been all season."

Remarkably, it was not Saturday's first eight-goal draw, as Minnesota United and the Portland Timbers had earlier played out a thriller.

Sebastian Blanco got the scoring started in the first minute, but there was no late drama in this one, with all eight goals netted before the 70-minute mark.

This was the first time in MLS history two matches on the same day have seen both teams score at least four goals, but there was a chasm between the Philadelphia Union and the Houston Dynamo in Saturday's third high-scoring game.

The Union ran out 6-0 winners as Mikael Uhre continued his stunning run of form at Subaru Park, netting either side of half-time for his fifth and sixth goals in his past four home games.

Uhre had also scored twice in a 7-0 defeat of DC United earlier in July, making Philly the first team to win multiple games by a six-goal margin in a single MLS season.

Elsewhere, New York City FC lost ground on the Union in the East as they drew with CF Montreal, while Sebastian Druissi continued his MVP bid by inspiring Austin FC to a 2-0 win at Sporting Kansas City.

"He continues to demonstrate why he deserves that [award]," said Austin coach Josh Wolff.

Robert Lewandowski will "complement" Barcelona's existing attacking options and help the club "conquer the world" once more, says team-mate Eric Garcia.

The Poland international has ended an eight-year stay with Bayern Munich to move to Camp Nou in one of the transfer window's more protracted transfers.

Lewandowski was on hand to watch Barca deliver a 6-0 pre-season thumping against Inter Miami on Tuesday in Florida, with a star performance from fellow new recruit Raphinha suggesting a bright season lays ahead.

Garcia believes Lewandowski, the European Golden Shoe winner in both 2020-21 and 2021-22, will add to their prowess on the pitch, and that they can deliver a return to the glory days over the coming season.

Lewandowski joins an imposing forward line of Ferran Torres, Raphinha, Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Memphis Depay and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

"Well, I think as a defender it's much better to have [Lewandowski] on your team," Garcia stated at a media conference after the victory in Fort Lauderdale. "I think he's one of the best strikers in the world. He has been proving it for the last few years.

"I am sure that he will help us a lot, he will complement the strikers we have very well, who are also of a spectacular level, and I hope he can start playing now and help us.

"I think a really great team is being built, with young players who want to conquer the world, and with players with a lot of experience who are world-class in their position.

"I think the club is doing a very good job and we on the field must continue the dynamics that we have started today, and with the tactics that the manager provides.

"You must dream. I think we have a very good team and if we continue with this mentality and this intensity, then we can achieve what we set out to do."

Garcia also weighed in on the absence of manager Xavi, who has been unable to enter the United States owing to visa issues, praising the support staff around the club who helped prepare them for their clash with Inter Miami.

"Well, obviously we missed him," he added. "But there's Oscar [Hernandez], there's Sergio [Alegre], Ivan [Torres], all the staff, who are telling us what Xavi wants to tell us."

The centre-back also played down suggestions that he has the inside track on former Manchester City team-mate Bernardo Silva's future, with the Portugal international linked with a switch to Camp Nou from the Premier League.

"The truth is that nothing has been spoken about it," he clarified. "I know him, we're friends, but he's a City player, and we all know he is a great player.

"What will happen there, I don’t know, but I want the best for him and for City."

Sergio Busquets is hopeful Robert Lewandowski will prove to be LaLiga's signing of the season after he joined the Blaugrana from Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski sealed his long-awaited move to Camp Nou on Monday, having expressed his desire to leave Bayern after scoring 50 goals in all competitions for the Bundesliga champions last season. 

The 33-year-old has finished as the Bundesliga's top goalscorer in seven separate seasons, equalling the record set by fellow Bayern great Gerd Muller, and will now spearhead Barca's bid for a first league title since 2018-19.

Speaking to Inter Miami's media channels ahead of Barca's pre-season friendly against the Major League Soccer side, both Busquets and new team-mate Andreas Christensen heaped praise on the Poland striker.

Asked whether the capture of Lewandowski represented LaLiga's signing of the season, Busquets said: "Well, at the media level, because of his name, it could be. But before starting any competition and before playing matches, it is not that useful to value this. 

"Hopefully we will be saying this when the season is over and after he had a great season individually, because that will mean that the collective also went well. 

"Hopefully it will be like this."

Former Chelsea defender Christensen has joined Lewandowski in moving to Camp Nou during the transfer window, and he believes the experience of the eight-time Bundesliga champion will be invaluable for Xavi's side.

"It's obvious that he's got the qualities, he's won a lot of trophies, he's got the winning mentality that we need," Christensen said.

"So I think he brings all these qualities. I think it's quite obvious what they are. So I don't think I need to mention it but yeah, everyone's just happy that he's here.

"He can push us and you know, share his experiences. I think it's just a good thing for the team."

 

Meanwhile, Busquets has just one year remaining on his contract with the Catalan giants, and refused to rule out a future move to MLS after claiming to have followed the league when former team-mate David Villa joined New York City.

"I have always liked this league a lot since David Villa came to play here," the 34-year-old added. "I started following the league when I can, because of the time difference.

"I'm not dismissing anything. It is true that this is my last year of contract, and everyone knows that.

"But I am focused on finishing well this season, which is full of things at both club and national team level. My focus is to enjoy, compete to the maximum and show my best level and in the future, we will see. 

"I have always said that I like coming to the US and their league a lot. But the future is still unknown, because there isn't anything yet and it is too early."

Inter Miami hope to be able to sign Lionel Messi and establish themselves as "the benchmark of soccer in the United States", co-owner Jorge Mas has reiterated.

The MLS outfit are owned by a group including former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England great David Beckham, so they are no strangers to big names.

But the arrival of seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi in the United States would likely represent a landmark transfer in the sport's history.

For now, Messi, who had spent his entire club career with Barcelona until last year, is under contract at Paris Saint-Germain for another season, while there is the option for a further 12 months, too.

However, Inter are not giving up hope of recruiting the 35-year-old before he calls time on a legendary career.

The club's chief business officer Xavier Asensi hinted at interest in Messi earlier this week, and Mas doubled down on their transfer market ambition in an interview with Sport as Barca visit Miami in pre-season.

 

Mas, a co-owner alongside Beckham, said: "Well, look, both David Beckham and I aspire to bring the best players in the world here to Miami.

"[It is] not only because of the project we are creating, because we want to be the benchmark of soccer in the United States, but when you talk about the best players in the world, Leo is obviously the best player on the planet.

"Hopefully the conditions will be for him being there, playing in the shirt of Inter Miami of the United States. We aspire to that. Hopefully the circumstances will arise.

"We have nothing guaranteed, there is no agreement, but I am a very optimistic man, and hopefully in the future Leo Messi can be part of our project."

Lionel Messi moving to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami would serve as a "reference point for football in the U.S." as David Beckham's franchise look to make high-profile signings.

That is the message from Miami's chief business officer Xavier Asensi, who hinted to Mundo Deportivo that his side will look to make a move for Messi.

Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini made their MLS debuts on Sunday for Los Angeles FC in a 2-1 win over Nashville SC.

Five-time Champions League winner Bale and Chiellini, who won Euro 2020 with Italy last year, joined Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Beckham as some of the biggest names to play in MLS.

With Messi's Paris Saint-Germain contract set to expire at the end of the upcoming season, Asensi suggested Miami will attempt to sign Messi but conceded the aim may be unrealistic.

When asked whether signing a player like Messi was a target for Beckham's side, Asensi said: "Yes, with some caveats. You can't compare Leo Messi with any other player; he's different.

"Having said that, what we're looking for is to be the reference point for football in the U.S., and to do that, the important thing is the players and the show that you can put on.

"To do so, you need the best players, and having them is a genuine objective at this club. In terms of Leo Messi, there's him and then there's everyone else.

"It depends on him and what he wants. We want to have the best players in the world, and I think Messi is the best in history. From there it's up to him."

 

Messi, 35, experienced a lean first season by his own high standards for PSG, scoring 11 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions.

That return was 17 fewer than he managed for Barcelona in the 2020-21 campaign, his final campaign before ending a 21-year association with the Blaugrana.

Though his goal tally diminished, Messi set up 14 league goals – only once in his last five seasons at Camp Nou (21 in 2019-20) did he assist more in a term.

After making his intentions and admirations for Messi clear, Asensi's focus turned to the pre-season friendly against Barca on Wednesday.

"From an emotional point of view it's marvellous and professionally it's exceptional," he added. "Barca are, if not the biggest, one of the three biggest clubs in the world for sure, and clubs are the ones that capitalise on the passion for football.

"I don't know of any fans of FIFA or UEFA. In international football everyone supports their country, but clubs don't have any borders, they go everywhere. And in terms of clubs, Barca are among the biggest, looking at the numbers.

"Emotionally, it's the biggest thing for me. To have them here, for the people of Miami, is spectacular."

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