Chicago Fire FC, Inter Miami FC’s close rivals, are in a state of panic as 61,000 soccer fans had already guaranteed their attendance at the team's game against Lionel Messi and his teammates on Thursday.
At the moment, however, it isn’t certain the legendary player will make an appearance, with both teams fearing Messi's absence will cause fans to stay away from the upcoming match.
Messi has missed four out of Inter Miami’s last five matches and, according to the latest reports from the U.S., he’s expected to skip the upcoming game as well and only return to the field in the match against Cincinnati, the last one before the international break.
Chicago is now under pressure, as they’re well aware that the crowds, especially in the U.S., mainly arrive for the chance to see the Argentinian player in action.
Therefore, the team decided to reimburse fans who will "feel disappointed," after the upcoming match. Chicago Fire announced they’ll grant a $250 credit for a season ticket or $50 toward ticket purchases to anyone who comes to the stadium and presents the ticket for the game against Inter Miami, whether Messi plays or not.
"While we don’t yet know the official status of Lionel Messi’s availability for our match tomorrow, as there’s never a guarantee that an athlete will play on any given night due to several factors, we understand that many of our fans may be disappointed if they don’t get the chance to see him play,” the club's management wrote in a statement.
“We realize that there will be many in attendance who are coming to a Chicago Fire match at Soldier Field for the first time, and we’re excited to welcome them to the Fire family and give them an opportunity to become long-term fans by creating a wonderful, fan-focused atmosphere,” the club added.
In the U.S., Messi's injury is referred to as a "mystery," and some fans displayed their anger on social media last week, claiming Inter Miami orchestrated the events, in order to sell tickets for its matches for thousands of dollars in order to watch Messi play.