An MLS rule instituted this year to improve player health and reduce gamesmanship or match delays came under fire after it forced Inter Miami star Lionel Messi to the sideline during a pivotal moment in his match against Montreal Saturday night.

With Miami trailing, 2-0, in Messi’s first game on Canadian soil, the forward was tackled around midfield. Trainers quickly arrived to assess his leg. Because medical staff entered the field of play for a substantial visit, Messi was required to spend at least two minutes on the sideline.

During that time, his team earned a free kick near Montreal’s goal—exactly the type of moment Messi has used to unleash magic in the past. But this time, he was still required to stay out-of-bounds. Cameras caught his disgust, with interpreters reporting that he said something along the lines of, “With this kind of rule, we’re headed in the wrong direction.” A clip of the moment already has more than 500,000 views on TikTok. 

Ironically, Matias Rojas stepped up to the ball in Messi’s absence and delivered a perfect strike, drawing Miami within one. The visitors would go on to win the match, 3-2. 

Another new policy came into play before the final whistle though, as Miami violated the new Timed Substitution Rule when Luis Suarez did not exit the pitch in fewer than 10 seconds after being subbed off in the 90th minute. That meant his replacement had to wait a minute before coming on. 

After the match, Miami coach Tata Martino was critical of the Off-Field Treatment Rule that temporarily sidelined Messi. “There are situations that must be revised,” he said. “The team that suffered the foul was punished.”

Both new rules—as well as changes to VAR announcements—were instituted last month. The treatment policy had previously been tested at the MLS NEXT Pro level, where officials saw an 80% reduction in 15+ second stoppages per match and the need to sit a player out arising roughly once every five games. 

However, further tweaks could be made. For instance, it’s possible the rule’s forced sit-out clause could only apply to teams leading or tied at the time of the injury.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here