CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte FC will be on the road Friday night to play Inter Miami and World Cup champion Lionel Messi in the League Cup quarterfinals.
And while playing Messi is a big deal for most fans, Charlotte FC coach Christian Lattanzio says his team can't focus on any individual player, even if it is Messi.
"No, we get to play Miami," Lattanzio said, interrupting a reporter's question about Friday's match (8:30 p.m. on Apple TV through MLS Season Pass).
He continued, "We are going to have, obviously a difficult game because we play against the team that has got Messi. We don't play Messi, we play a team that has got Messi."
Messi, an Argentinian icon who is among the select few players in the discussion for greatest of all time, needs no introduction. His signing with Inter Miami has brought a ton of fanfare to Major League Soccer and has driven up ticket prices as American fans hope to catch a glimpse of the World Cup champ.
"For us, it's going to be a good challenge," Lattanzio said. "It's going to be a difficult challenge and we are looking forward to going there and playing our game against a team that has got many, many good players and a good coach."
Charlotte FC enters Friday's match on the heels of a 2-1 victory over Houston in Leagues Cup action. The club was scheduled to face Miami on Aug. 20 in MLS action but the match was postponed due to the winner of Friday's match playing in the League Cup semifinals next Saturday. The makeup date has not been announced at this time.
The teams will meet again on Oct. 21 for Fan Appreciation Night at Bank of America Stadium. The playing surface at Bank of America Stadium is another concern, as Messi's never played on artificial turf.
It's unclear whether or not Messi will choose to sit out the games on turf fields. MLS Commissioner Don Garber noted that Messi does not have a requirement to play a certain number of games in his contract and could miss MLS games due to Argentina national team commitments.
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