Lionel Messi scored his 12th goal of the year in his final Major League Soccer game before the Copa America.  The goal helped MLS-leading Inter Miami CF to an exciting 3-3 tie against St. Louis City SC.

Miami (10-3-5, 35 points) widened its margin over Cincinnati (10-3-3, 33 points) in second place, who did not play on Saturday. The team took the lead in both the Eastern Conference standings and the MLS overall.

Jordi Alba scored the game-tying goal in the 85th minute. Luis Suárez also scored his 12th goal for Inter Miami. Messi, who this season joined Inter Miami, will now play for Argentina in the Copa America final. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner hopes to add another honor to his career after celebrating winning his first major medal for his country’s team in 2021.

“Knowing the player that he is for us, it’s hard, but the team will continue to compete as much as possible, and that will be noticed,” Alba said of Messi’s departure. “It’s an important absence for us, but we hope he does well in Copa America. We hope he has a great tournament and joins us again when it’s time. If that’s after the final, well — but in the meantime, the team will continue to fight and play.”

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Messi and Suárez, who are even for the team lead in goals, are only one goal behind Real Salt Lake’s Cristian Arango and D.C. United’s Christian Benteke, who both have 13. However, Messi’s 12 goals have come from playing in three fewer games than Benteke and four fewer than Arango.

In the first half, Messi showed off his skill by dribbling past St. Louis defenders and then passing it back to Alba, who then fired it back to Messi for a strike that leveled the score at one. Messi bid the MLS farewell for the time being as he left the field amid applause from the spectators.

Messi may miss at least five Inter Miami games during the Copa America, which takes place from June 20 to July 14. Suárez, who may play for Uruguay, may also miss several games. Inter Miami may lose players once more following Copa America to national team obligations for the July 26–August 11 Olympics in Paris.

Miami has won once, lost once, and drawn once in their past three games. Martino described the results as acceptable under the circumstances. “Today’s game there is a positive part, which is coming back from a negative result on three occasions,” Martino said. “We also overcame the rival in the final three minutes, where we could’ve and should’ve won the game.”

Inter Miami hopes to make it to the postseason for the second time in club history and for the first time since 2022. The team missed the playoffs last year despite winning the Leagues Cup in Messi’s first campaign due to injuries and a hectic schedule. By carefully controlling the playing time of Messi and other experienced players like Suárez and Sergio Busquets, Miami aims to prevent a similar outcome this season.