Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2024 schedule includes a likely visit from Lionel Messi

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi holds his Ballon d'Or trophy before a club friendly soccer match against New York City FC, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

CTV News

There’s no guarantee he’ll play, but the man many regard as the greatest soccer player of all time is scheduled to pay a visit to BC Place next year.

Released Wednesday, Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s 2024 schedule includes a home date against Inter Miami CF – and legendary Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi – on May 25.

The 36-year-old Messi joined Inter Miami last summer, six months after leading his country to its third World Cup title and first since 1986.

Miami – which was at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference standings when Messi arrived – promptly won seven straight games and the inaugural Leagues Cup, an in-season tournament pitting MLS teams against teams from Mexico’s LigaMX. Messi scored at least once in every match.

His club’s May 25 visit to Vancouver will be the first-ever meeting between the Whitecaps and Inter Miami, which joined MLS as an expansion team during the 2020 season.

MLS teams play a total of 34 matches in the regular season, with most of those coming against teams from within their conference. Inter Miami is only playing six matches against Western Conference teams in 2024, and only three of those are away games.

Besides Vancouver, the other Western Conference markets with a chance to see Messi play in person against their local club this year are Los Angeles and Kansas City.

Of course, Inter Miami is just one of 17 opponents who will make the trip to BC Place this season, as the Whitecaps look to improve on their 2023 performance, which saw them finish sixth in the Western Conference and swept out of the playoffs in the first round.

The team will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024. The first iteration of the club joined the long-defunct North American Soccer League in 1974.

The season kicks off on Saturday, March 2, with a visit from Charlotte FC. Cascadia rivals the Portland Timbers visit BC Place on March 30, while the Seattle Sounders make their lone trip to Vancouver on Oct. 2.

All but two of Vancouver’s home MLS matches will be played on Saturdays in 2024, with the other to scheduled for Wednesdays.

The Whitecaps will play 11 of 15 matches on the road from April 20 to July 30, but will conclude the season with eight of 12 matches at home between July 17 and Oct. 19.

“The 2024 season promises to bring tremendous excitement to our fans and our city,” said Axel Schuster, the team’s CEO, in a news release.

“We have taken steps forward each year; last season we showed that we can compete with any team in our league, and we are working hard to ensure we will hit the ground running. We ended 2023 with two of our top 10 attendances ever for MLS matches at BC Place. Next year, starting with our home opener and our 50th anniversary celebrations, we are looking forward to setting even more records in 2024.”

Source: With files from The Associated Press