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Inter Miami can't afford not to win MLS Cup as Lionel Messi and friends kick-off the 2024 season

Let's make it clear from the beginning: Lionel Messi isn't feeling any pressure. He's felt real pressure before, at Barcelona, in Argentina, in Qatar. The same can be said of Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. They're all used to pressure, used to not being able to accept failure as any sort of option.

But this sort of pressure is new for MLS, and it's sure as hell new to Inter Miami. The world's eyes are fixed on South Beach, and as the Herons enter their fifth MLS season, it promises to be unlike anything the club or the league has ever seen.

Messi-mania arrived last season, giving us a taste of the circus the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner brings with him. But that's what last season was: a taste. By the time Messi arrived, the club's MLS Cup hopes were already all but dead. He did his best to resurrect them before an injury ruled him out for too many crucial games. Ultimately, the club was undone by what happened before Messi arrived.

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He's here now, though, and he has all of his friends with him. No MLS season has had this much hype, and no team has been under the microscope more than Inter Miami. Anything less than transcendent success won't cut it for a club that is now built upon a promise of more.