FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida: Here's how it goes for Inter Miami right now when it comes to the injured Lionel Messi: The team keeps saying he might play, and then he doesn't play.

That pattern held true again Saturday (Sunday in Manila), when the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was scratched from the lineup for a matchup against New York City FC — a game with significant Major League Soccer playoff implications for both clubs. Messi has a leg injury, the severity of which has not been revealed by Inter Miami.

Lionel Messi AFP PHOTO

The team announced that Messi would not play about 45 minutes before Saturday's game time.

The 36-year-old superstar has now missed four of Inter Miami's last five matches, plus another for Argentina in that span because of what was first called fatigue — by both his club and country — and has evolved from there. The only game he didn't miss during that stretch was a 37-minute appearance against Toronto on September 20, and he had to leave that match before halftime because of what is believed to be a hamstring issue.

Saturday's absence came with Inter Miami entering the night five points behind NYCFC with two matches in hand. Inter Miami entered the night in control of its playoff destiny, trying to make a push for one of the nine playoff spots out of the Eastern Conference.

After Saturday, the team will have only four MLS matches remaining. And Messi's status for them remains a mystery, even as some fans pay hundreds of dollars — or more — to attend a match with hopes of seeing him play.

Many fans on social media have responded to posts from the team with outrage over the lack of transparency about Messi's status. A post previewing the NYCFC match, sent around midday Saturday, elicited comments like "Post the squad and don't fool your own fans. Have some shame." and "Can y'all be clear about what's going on with Messi."

Messi's status is not the only talking point around the team in recent days. Inter Miami sent out season-ticket renewal notices this week, with big price increases in every section for next season.

Season prices in the section where Inter Miami's most ardent supporters stand, chant and wave banners for the entirety of matches are set to rise 82 percent (from $485 to $884) in 2024, prices for some seats near midfield will be 98 percent higher (from $1,333 to $2,635) in some sections than the published price of what they were this year, and other fans were told to expect a more than 100 percent increase over what they have been paying.

The published price for the most expensive season tickets next season tops $40,000, and that isn't even for the suites.

2023-10-02T00:34:23Z dg43tfdfdgfd