Atlanta United fans rep their team during Major League Soccer match against Nashville Soccer Club on Saturday, August 26, 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

The greatest player in the world will make his Mercedes-Benz Stadium debut Sat., Sept. 16 when Lionel Messi and Inter Miami come to town for the final regular season match between the teams this season. That’s just a week from now and Atlanta United, coming off of a 2-2 draw at Dallas, Sat., Sept. 2, have an extra week to prepare for what will more than likely be the best attended, most hyped and important match of the season.

The city of Atlanta has hosted all of the major sporting events, including the 1996 Summer Olympic Games and several Super Bowls. Within the next three years there will be a college football national championship game and World Cup semifinals taking place downtown. This is a big game city, and as of the past few years it has also become a soccer city. And nothing says soccer city like having a match that includes Messi. During his short time with Inter Miami Messi has provided several viral moments. There’s no doubt the match in Atlanta, which regularly leads Major League Soccer in overall attendance, will be prime for a few celebrity sightings and goal celebrations.

Thiago Almada celebrrates after scoring a goal during a Major League Soccer match against Nashville Soccer Club on Saturday, August 26, 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Almada may be league’s best player

There will be more than one star on the field when Messi and Miami arrive. Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada has taken his game, already at a high level since winning a World Cup with Messi and Argentia a summer ago, to the next level. During the match at Dallas he set the team single season assist record with a pair that gave him 14 for the campaign. Almada also leads Major League Soccer in assists as of Sept. 4. 

For the season Almada has nine goals (second to Giorgos Giakoumakis’ 13 goals) to go with 14 assists and leads the league in goals outside of the 18-yard box with six. 

Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez and midfielder Brooks Lennon, right, applauds the Supporters Section following a 3-1 win against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, February 27, 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Don’t forget About Me

Josef Martinez, the former Atlanta United star and anchor of one of the city’s few title winners, will also be returning to Mercedes-Benz Stadium this month. Martinez signed with Inter Miami before the start of the 2023 season and despite a slow start, has become a solid contributor at forward. 

Martinez currently has six goals and an assist in 21 games this season. Two of those six goals came against Atlanta during a May 6 match that Miami won 2-1. Both of Martinez’s shots found the back of the net after subbing into the match during the second half. A former league Most Valuable Player award winner. Martinez has both started and been a substitute for Inter Miami this season. 

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...