‘Messi Meets America’ Is an Immersive, Yet Slightly Rushed Look into Messi’s MLS Debut Season

With one episode left of the Messi Meets America series on Apple TV, we take a look at how it’s unfolded so far, and potential topics to be covered in the concluding episode on December 6.

When Lionel Messi joined MLS, the league absolutely needed to make the most of it. From marketing promos to the most elaborate announcement celebration the league has seen, Messi-mania was in full effect.

So it was no surprise that we got a documentary surrounding Messi’s arrival in Miami, especially with the league’s unique streaming partnership with Apple TV.

However, I don’t think many of us expected it to be a series that was released in its entirety before the end of the playoffs of the same season though. Granted the episodes are just around 30 minutes each, it’s still an impressive feat to get a series filmed and edited so quickly.

Inter Miami’s *cough* scripted *cough* Leagues Cup run is the perfect start for a series. Despite being a fun and intense ride, the show, much like the Inter Miami season, loses its luster by the end.

What the series does well is retell the Inter Miami season from the moment Messi joined and not a second before. Making good use of Apple’s broadcast and on field cameras, the series jumps from game to game in dramatic fashion. Interviews keep the show going and provide new-ish information. The production value is high, as it should be for the world’s greatest player, and the sound design is clean.

There is however a lot of music. Music is nice don’t get me wrong, and there are a lot of times where it’s necessary, but when it’s nearly constant it starts to feel like reality TV. To that point, the show lacks stakes; Messi joins and the team is good. Tag along for the ride kiddo. This was one of the worst teams in the league and they still didn’t even qualify for playoffs after Messi joined. This is the easiest worst-to-first story ever and the fact that Inter Miami was downright awful pre-Messi is mentioned less than five times in the entire series.

Players barely talk about the difference he brings to the table. Deandre Yedlin is the only one to talk about it in depth and that’s not until the fifth episode. All the drama comes from the music or how excited the given announcer is for the game. While annoying, I can’t say I’m particularly surprised.

Despite my clear struggles with it, I get it. This needs to be not simply fun to watch but digestible to non-MLS fans. That’s what Messi brings to the table, it’s a huge part of why MLS and Miami went for broke to get him. To expect anything less content wise from the league broadcaster is foolish, especially when they immediately win a trophy. The games are fun, the look and feel is on point. Some of his goals are truly great and it’s fun to get caught up in the hype.

messi meets america

At the very least it’s an easy watch after a long day, and at the best it could genuinely make a non-fan excited for next season. The amount of cameras at Inter Miami games gives a surprisingly immersive feel to the games. It comes late but there is a moment to start the fourth episode where we get a break from the stadium lights and see fans playing pickup and a genuine moment of a kid talking about how much he looks up to Messi. These are the moments I really wish we got more of in the series, genuine fandom.

The first three episodes cover the epic Leagues Cup run, with the fourth episode marking his league debut. The fifth episode came out last week on November 1, and covers Messi’s time dealing with injury and we get to visit Yedlin’s home, which is cool but seems out of place compared ot the rest of the series.

Regardless of whose house we visit, this episode is a nice break from the constant games and interviews, a breather if you will. While it may feel random for Yedlin to get a lot of face time, he can serve as a translator of sorts. Not language-wise, but he’s a face MLS and United States men’s national team fans know and recognize. His word means more than other players on the team, we trust Yedlin naturally.

The one time we do see Messi off the field is also in this episode. It opens with Messi on set for an adidas shoot by himself, alone in his own thoughts. His facial expressions match those he has during the game, stoicism. You never fully understand what Messi is thinking in this show — all of the interviews are so curated and produced it never feels like a natural moment. But maybe that’s Messi’s experience in the U.S., he’s so big at this point how could it be natural? The guy can’t go to Publix without massive crowds forming.

Despite there being one episode left we know that Miami doesn’t make the playoffs, ending up nine points off the last playoff spot. That alone dictates the feeling of this series. All the drama and high points come during Leagues Cup; the first thing that happens when Messi joins.

Messi’s arrival to the league and the subsequent ripple effects are obvious indicators that we are in a new era of MLS. That is felt with how well documented Miami games are. The game montages are truly engrossing in a way that can only come with cameras and eyeballs. As annoying as it is, the saying “high tides raise all boats” applies pretty perfectly here. Highly produced, pretty-looking series haven’t been made about MLS teams or players before and this series won’t be the last.

The final episode of Messi Meets America comes out December 6th, three days before the MLS Cup, so you have plenty of time to catch up or even binge the show.

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