Lionel Messi didn’t score in Inter Miami’s season opener Wednesday, but the international superstar appeared healthy and earned an assist in the team’s 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake. Uruguayan star Luis Suarez also earned an assist in his first MLS appearance.

Between Messi and new acquisition Suarez, along with their former FC Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba, have formed a super team that is overwhelmingly favored to win the MLS title this season. Less than a year ago, the team was dead last in the league.

Though Messi’s arrival in 2023 sparked a late flurry for the team, Inter Miami failed to make up enough ground to make the playoffs last year. Messi suffered several injuries which have kept him more or less sidelined since November, but Inter Miami manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino was happy with his progress in the season opener.

“He has a characteristic that no other player has,” Martino said, according to ESPN. “He grabs the ball very far from the rival goal and the feeling he gives is that he will generate something [that] will end in a goal situation.”

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Messi’s assist allowed striker Robert Taylor to earn the team’s first goal of the season in the 39th minute, and Suarez set up midfielder Diego Gomez late in the second half to seal the 2-0 victory. Taylor, a 29-year-old from Finland, has been a bit player for several years, but it was 20-year-old Gomez’s first goal since signing with Inter Miami last summer.

Unlike last season, when fans were packing into stadiums to watch Messi compete for minor trophies, the hype could now be even greater now that Inter Miami has added Suarez with a full season ahead. Ticket prices have quadrupled compared to the start of the 2023 season and could go higher throughout the season as Messi returns to full health and the team enters serious championship contention.

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