Major League Soccer

Lionel Messi is picking apart MLS at a ridiculous rate

Lionel Messi is picking apart MLS at a ridiculous rate

Lionel Messi celebrates his first of two goals Saturday against the New England Revolution. (AP Photo/Mark Stockwell)

Lionel Messi scored two more goals Saturday night in Massachusetts. He nearly scored a third. He assisted Inter Miami's fourth. Nothing he did, by his own otherworldly standards, was all that remarkable — but Messi's numbers thus far in his first full Major League Soccer season are.

He has now scored nine times in six-and-a-half MLS games in 2024.

Toss in seven assists, per MLS' generous definition, and he's averaging 2.5 goal contributions per 90 minutes.

Which is quite absurd. Remember when Messi took America by storm last summer? It took him 731 minutes against MLS foes, between the Leagues Cup and regular season, to notch his 16th goal contribution.

In 2024, it took him 583 minutes.

His goals Saturday night at a packed Gillette Stadium, against the bottom-feeding New England Revolution, were relatively ordinary. His first required a fine first touch, after a fizzed pass from Robert Taylor, then a simple finish.

His second came from Sergio Busquets. From a criminally large swath of midfield turf, Busquets unlocked the Revolution defense again. Messi finished into the far corner.

In the 83rd minute, he nearly completed his first MLS hat trick, but his close-range shot was saved. The rebound was buried by Benjamin Cremaschi.

Five minutes after that, Messi fed Luis Suarez to cap Miami's 4-1 victory.

That he and his former FC Barcelona friends are picking apart MLS is nothing new. But the rate at which they're doing so is astounding and unprecedented.

In 11 games last summer prior to his all-but-season-ending injury, Messi averaged 1.61 non-penalty goals plus primary assists per 90 minutes. Over a full season, that would have been the second-best goal creation rate of his glittering career — but, of course, the question lingered: was it sustainable?

Through seven league games this year, his rate is 1.85 per 90.

And he is doing all this despite a nagging hamstring injury that disrupted his season. He sat out one game, missed three with the injury, played only 45 minutes off the bench when he returned … and still leads the league with nine goals. He's tied for the lead in assists with seven.

On Saturday, he became the first player in MLS history to record two or more goal contributions in five consecutive games, according to the league.

And Inter Miami — despite its many flaws, which were exposed in the CONCACAF Champions League by Monterrey — leapt back to the top of the Eastern Conference.

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