As has been the case so many times in his unparalleled career, Lionel Messi’s first goal as an Inter Miami player seemed almost unbelievable. Adorned in pink, he came on as a sub, eliciting a roar from a crowd that was anticipating just that, and made his presence known the second he stepped onto the pitch. With the game tied well into stoppage time and the clock approaching the 94th minute, he stepped up to the ball just outside of the arc, and smashed a free kick into the top left corner. He went wild, the Miami players went wild, and so did the crowd, as did just about anyone with a pulse who cares about this sport.

Since then, he’s made 3 starts for the club, all in the Leagues Cup, a knockout competition held between clubs from the United States, Mexico, and Canada, which also serves as a qualifier for the CONCACAF Champions League. In those 3 matches, he’s racked up 6 more goals and an assist, putting him on a truly outrageous scoring pace. His 7 goals already have him sitting in fourth place on the all-time Inter Miami career scoring list. Granted, the club has only existed since 2020, but it’s still a testament to how quickly Messi has made an impact in South Florida. Inter are in the quarterfinals of the competition, and will be in action again on Friday against Charlotte, another bottom-table MLS side.

Speaking of the league, for all of the talk about what Messi has done since his move “to the MLS,” he actually hasn’t exactly…touched the field in an MLS game. All of his sparkling performances thus far have been in cup competition, so he’ll get to work in the top “soccer” league in the United States on August 26 against the New York Red Bulls in North Jersey. He’ll make his league debut in front of Miami fans a few days later on August 30 against Nashville, delighting what is sure to be a sellout crowd. The question is, how much can he do in the competition in terms of elevating Miami, the last-place side in the Eastern Conference?

The on-field performances will improve, but Messi may not have enough time to save the season. Inter have played 22 league matches out of 34, leaving Messi with 12 to turn things around. Their 18 points leave them 12 behind 9th place, the last spot that makes the Wild Card match of the MLS playoffs. To make the playoffs proper, they’d need to get up to seventh place, which currently is held by Atlanta with 35 points. Granted, they’ve played two fewer games than everyone else behind them, but it’s still a positively daunting task for the all-time great; he’d have to lead a subpar side to almost nothing but wins to even have a chance.

Even if Messi can’t lead the club to the playoffs, there’s still cup competition, one of the true beauties of the sport; multiple competitions. In addition to the Leagues Cup, Miami are in the semifinal of the US Open Cup, which is best described as the American version of the FA Cup, for fans more familiar with the sport in England. It’s a knockout competition featuring competitors from multiple levels of the football pyramid in the United States, and Miami will look to book a spot in the final on August 23 against Cincinnati, who are currently first place in all of MLS by quite some margin. If Messi is even able to lead Miami to lift one of these three trophies, it would be special, as it would be the first in the club’s history. If he’s able to get them all and kick his North American career off with a “treble” of sorts, it would be a nearly-unbelievable accomplishment, but at this point, it would be hard to be shocked by anything he does.

It seems that Messi is truly having fun on the pitch, and he really deserves just that. He’s already accomplished absolutely everything, in the wake of his triumphant World Cup victory with Argentina, and is actually about to take home yet another Ballon D’Or in October. In the US, he’s living a life he was never able to in Europe and certainly in Argentina, where everywhere he goes, a horde of admirers will surely follow. Yes, it’s special to be beloved the way he is, but to him, a man who has been in the spotlight since he was a teenager, it’s also special to simply go to the grocery store with his family and pick up some bread. And yes, there are a few fans who will want to say hi to the GOAT, but it’s not on the same scale as it would be anywhere else he’s ever been.

But it’s not as if he’s left ALL hysteria behind. Ticket prices for MLS games in which he is slated to appear have absolutely skyrocketed- seats that would normally cost 30 or 40 dollars have soared to 500 or even more. And then there’s perhaps the craziest angle of this entire situation, his odds to be the top goalscorer for this MLS season, in which Miami has already played 22 of 34 matches. That means he has a maximum of 12 games to get on top, a position currently occupied by Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar with 13 goals. Amazingly enough, Messi has +650 odds on DraftKings to win the league’s scoring title, the fourth-highest odds of anyone. Just a reminder, the man currently has zero goals with about two thirds of the season gone- but the way he’s been playing, you won’t find me betting against him.