Lionel Messi set to make his MLS debut in New York on Saturday vs. Red Bulls

Ticket prices are soaring in Harrison, N.J., and not because the New York Red Bulls are inching closer in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

With Lionel Messi on the other side of the pitch for his anticipated MLS regular-season debut with Inter Miami, the host Red Bulls are out to keep their focus and improve their place in the standings Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Messi won a club-record 34 trophies for Barcelona in Spain's LaLiga, and already has a Leagues Cup title with Inter Miami, though it is possible that the 36-year-old could enter as a substitute Saturday.

After leading Argentina to the World Cup title in December, he signed a contract through 2025 to play for Inter Miami on July 15, then scored 10 goals in eight Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup matches.

Messi will be making his MLS regular-season debut after contributing a pair of quality assists in Wednesday's penalty-shootout win over FC Cincinnati in the semifinal of the U.S. Open Cup. He also scored last Saturday when Miami beat Nashville SC to win the Leagues Cup trophy.

"I'm living a dream," Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender said. "Sometimes I sit down and I really think of the position I'm in, on the field with Messi, the best player in the world, and it's unbelievable."

As far as games that count in the MLS standings, Messi is hoping to push his new team back into contention. With 12 matches left, Miami (5-14-3, 18 points) is last in the Eastern Conference, 14 points below the playoff line, and has gone 0-8-3 in MLS play since defeating New England 2-1 on May 13.

The Red Bulls (7-9-8, 29 points), who are seeking their 14th straight playoff appearance, are three points out of the last playoff spot. They returned from the Leagues Cup break with a dramatic 1-0 victory Sunday over D.C. United.

John Tolkin scored the game-winner in the 88th minute and the Red Bulls enter their encounter with Messi after three straight home victories across all competitions.

"That should be a good one," New York defender Sean Nealis said. "It should be a fun one. Everyone's excited for that one."

--Field Level Media

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