Lionel Messi returned to the starting lineup but could not prevent his first MLS season from ending in defeat as Charlotte FC beat Inter Miami 1-0 in front of a crowd of 66,101 at Bank of America Stadium.
Messi was captain and played the full 90 minutes-plus on artificial turf in the meaningless game on Saturday for Miami, which failed to make the playoffs.
The game had massive implications, though, for Charlotte. With a win and results elsewhere, the second-year team qualified for the MLS playoffs for the first time.
Kerwin Vargas scored the game’s only goal in the 13th minute, but Miami came close on numerous occasions to finding an equaliser that would have ended Charlotte’s postseason hopes.
Messi had a free kick saved onto the post in the 62nd minute and also had a goal ruled out for offside at the start of the second half. Then in a thrilling finale, Charlotte goalkeeper, Kristijan Kahlina, made multiple standout saves to keep Miami out.
Charlotte finished ninth in the Eastern Conference to claim the final playoff spot and will face a wild-card match against the New York Red Bulls. –ESPN