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Lionel Messi’s first full season with Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami starts Feb. 21 at home against Real Salt Lake in a matchup three days ahead of other openers, and the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner could miss at least six games while with Argentina’s national team.

MLS released its schedule Wednesday, with each team playing 34 matches, The New York Red Bulls offered a holiday ticket promotion with one catch, that a game against Miami wouldn’t be included. Miami visits the Red Bulls on March 23 during a FIFA international fixture window when Messi could be with Argentina.

Because of the June FIFA window and the Copa América, Messi also could be with defending champion Argentina when Miami plays at Philadelphia (June 15), vs. Columbus (June 19), at Nashville (June 29), at Charlotte (July 3) and at Cincinnati (July 6). Following the Copa América final on July 14, Miami also has home matches against Toronto (July 17) and Chicago (July 20).

Unlike most leagues, MLS schedules games during some FIFA fixture periods, when release of players to national teams is mandatory.

MLS scheduled 11 openers on Feb. 24, three the following day and Vancouver starting on March 2. Salt Lake will have just two days off before playing at St. Louis on Feb. 24.

The regular season ends with 14 games on Oct. 19; the only team in the 29-team league not playing that day is Toronto, which finishes on Oct. 5 at home against Miami.

Messi joined Miami midway through 2023 and appeared in only six MLS regular-season matches with the club — though led the team to its first trophy by winning the Leagues Cup shortly after his arrival.

The Real Salt Lake match marks the first meeting between that club and Miami. Also playing Inter Miami for the first time this season: Colorado (in Fort Lauderdale on April 6) and Vancouver (in British Columbia on May 25).

MESSI SCHEDULE

The way the MLS schedule works, teams play their conference rivals twice, once home and once away. In Inter Miami’s case, that allows for six games against the Western Conference — meaning the only West cities Messi would play MLS matches in this season are Los Angeles (against the Galaxy on Feb. 25), Kansas City (April 13) and Vancouver (May 26).

The West teams that come to Fort Lauderdale for matches where they could see Messi are Salt Lake (the Feb. 21 opener), Colorado (April 6) and St. Louis (June 1).

The teams with no matches against Inter Miami as part of the MLS regular season: Seattle, LAFC, Houston, FC Dallas, San Jose, Portland, Minnesota and Austin.

LEAGUES CUP

The Leagues Cup, a tournament involving MLS teams and teams from Mexico’s top league — the event that Inter Miami won last year — is scheduled for July 26 through Aug. 25. There are no MLS regular season matches planned in that window.

The tournament begins two days after the MLS All-Star Game, to be played July 24 in Columbus.

MLS CUP REMATCH

Columbus, which beat Los Angeles FC 2-1 earlier this month in the MLS Cup championship game, will visit LAFC on July 13.

The 2024 MLS Cup final will be Dec. 7.

EL TRAFICO

The LA Galaxy and LAFC will meet at the Rose Bowl once again on July 4 for El Tráfico, just as the teams did last year when setting an MLS attendance record of 82,110 fans.

SEASON OPENERS

A list of opening matches:

Atlanta — visit Columbus, Feb. 24

Austin — host Minnesota, Feb. 24

Cincinnati — host Toronto, Feb. 25

Charlotte — host NYCFC, Feb. 24

Chicago — visit Philadelphia, Feb. 24

Colorado — visit Portland, Feb. 24

Columbus — host Atlanta, Feb. 24

Dallas — host San Jose, Feb. 24

D.C. United — host New England, Feb. 24

Houston — host Kansas City, Feb. 24

Inter Miami — host Real Salt Lake, Feb. 21

Kansas City — visit Houston, Feb. 24

LAFC — host Seattle, Feb. 24

LA Galaxy — host Inter Miami, Feb. 25

Minnesota — visit Austin, Feb. 24

Montreal — visit Orlando, Feb. 24

Nashville — host NY Red Bulls, Feb. 25

New England — visit D.C. United, Feb. 24

NYCFC — visit Charlotte, Feb. 24

NY Red Bulls — visit Nashville, Feb. 25

Orlando — host Montreal, Feb. 24

Philadelphia — host Chicago, Feb. 24

Portland — host Colorado, Feb. 24

Real Salt Lake — visit Inter Miami, Feb. 21

St. Louis — host Real Salt Lake, Feb. 24

San Jose — visit Dallas, Feb. 24

Seattle — visit LAFC, Feb. 24

Toronto — visit Cincinnati, Feb. 25

Vancouver — host Charlotte, March 2

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