“Anything is possible”: Inter Miami’s abundant youth thrilled to play with Messi

Fresh off its inaugural preseason world tour, Inter Miami CF opens the Major League Soccer (MLS) regular season on Wednesday night, with anticipation as high as ever.

Perhaps no other team in the league has Inter Miami’s mesh of superstars — Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, and now Luis Suarez — and promising new talents. Some of the latter recently joined the first team and are living out their dreams of playing alongside the world’s elite.

January signings Tyler Hall and Israel Boatwright have joined Noah Allen, Edison Azcona, Benjamin Cremaschi, Ian Fray, Santiago Morales, David Ruiz and Felipe Valencia as the latest homegrown talents to transition from the club’s academy to the first team.

Ruiz, a 19-year-old Honduran American midfielder from Miami, joined the first team last April and made the most of his rookie season. In the ensuing preseason, he netted his first goal of 2024 against Al Hilal, boosting his figure on a global scale.

“I know that there are many children from Inter Miami’s academy, everyone in Miami, watching me right now,” Ruiz said last week. “It’s something I try to do every day, inspire children that anything is possible and that you always have to dream big.”

When addressing the media, these young players exhibit a professional attitude and express their thoughts clearly. At 17, Tyler Hall, an American defender, boldly demonstrates his readiness for the new challenge and a determination to absorb valuable insights from elite players on the squad.

“It’s a goal to get in that field, so I want to take it slow and steady to learn from these guys, and especially these top-quality players that we have on the team,” Hall said after signing his professional contract. “Once I get the opportunity to get on that field, I am going to take the most of it.”

These players, who grew up watching Messi, are now living the dream of sharing the pitch with him.

“It just feels unreal now, because when I was younger, I would watch YouTube videos of highlights of Messi,” Hall said. “And now, being right next to him, and him training the same way that you see on YouTube it is crazy because he is here to compete and give it his all in training.”

Inter Miami’s Lawson Sunderland (left) and Hong Kong’s De Oliveira Velasques try to control the ball during the friendly football match between the Hong Kong team and U.S. Inter Miami CF at the Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Louise Delmotte/AP Photo)

Lawson Sunderland, 22, who joined the first team in September 2023, shared his enthusiasm about playing alongside Messi, Suarez, Busquets and Alba.

“These players that have played together for so long have a lot of chemistry,” said Sunderland. “For me, personally, it is very fun to get to experience this.”

Sunderland played a significant role in the recent preseason game against Hong Kong, helping the club to a 4-1 victory after a goal and an assist.

Indeed, with a new year comes a fresh start for Inter Miami, marked by new jerseys, sponsors, Suarez, and many new young faces. While these players await their chances, they will be part of a process of adaptation to the team and learning from the experienced.

“The spots are earned in training,” coach Tata Martino said in a preseason press conference. “Besides, there are too many games to think that absolutely everyone can have their opportunity.”

Inter Miami CF concluded the preseason on Thursday against Argentinian team Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s childhood club. On Wednesday, the club kicks off the regular season against Real Salt Lake at the DRV PNK Stadium.

Juan Aguirre Saravia is a college student from Buenos Aires, Argentina who is majoring in Digital and Interactive Media and Communication. He's currently engaged in a digital internship at Inter Miami CF in which he's determined to fuse his digital skills with his passion for 'fútbol,' aiming for a career in the digital landscape of this sport's world.