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Lionel Messi, Inter Miami expected to bring record crowd to Gillette Stadium Saturday

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FOXBORO -- A different GOAT will be taking the field at Gillette Stadium this weekend, as Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF are set to take over the house that Tom Brady built in New England. Messi's visit for an MLS showdown with the Revolution is expected to bring a massive crowd to Gillette, as fans flock to Foxboro for a chance to see soccer royalty.

It will look more like a football crowd Saturday night with more than 64,000 fans expected to attend the Revs' match against Messi, who won a World Cup with Argentina in 2022. The international superstar has brought his dynamic game to Major League Soccer and currently ranks second in the league with seven goals on the season. He's coming off an electric two-goal effort in a 3-1 win over Nashville last week. 

Fans are not passing up their opportunity to see one of the world's greatest footballers. Two weeks ago, Messi played at Arrowhead Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of 72,000. Of course, he showed off his golden boot during the match:

Will we see more of that this weekend at Gillette Stadium?

Is Messi expected to play against the Revolution at Gillette Stadium?

It would be pretty disappointing for 64,000+ people if Messi didn't suit up on Saturday. But that is not expected to be the case.

While Messi has had concerns about playing on artificial turf surfaces -- like the one at Gillette Stadium -- he is expected to play on Saturday night in Foxboro. Messi has played on this kind of turf since coming to MLS, logging 90 minutes of action in Miami's regular-season finale in Charlotte last season. 

Messi has also played at Gillette before, when he helped lead Argentina to a 4-1 victory over Venezuela in the 2016 Copa America Centenario quarterfinals. Messi scored in the 60th minute of that match in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000. That was played on a temporary grass field though, which FIFA required for the tournament.

Argentina v Venezuela: Quarterfinal - Copa America Centenario
Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina celebrates his goal with Lionel Messi and Ever Banega in the first half during the 2016 Copa America Centenario quarterfinal match against Venezuela at Gillette Stadium on June 18, 2016. Jim Rogash / Getty Images

As for this weekend, the 1-6-1 Revs are expecting to see Messi out there causing havoc all over the pitch.

"That's our mindset, that he will play," Revs head coach Caleb Porter said after Tuesday's training. "They haven't played on turf this year, but he played last year in Charlotte. So, our mindset is that he is going to play."

Messi is obviously a focus of New England's defensive game plan this week, though the Revs are well aware that he is an unstoppable force. 

"We'll continue to improve ourselves and how we want to play, and we will factor in, for sure, how they play and put together what we feel is a good plan for the game," said Porter. "It will include trying to – you don't stop Messi, but can you limit his touches in key areas? Because when he's in key areas around the box, he is lethal. He is unstoppable in some ways, so we just have to do it by committee.

"We're not going to man-mark him. We have to do it by committee in the zones," added Porter. :He floats everywhere, so wherever he floats, be aware. Can we get guys around him and make it a game where he's not where he wants to be?" 

"You want to get him the ball as little as possible," said New England defender Nick Lima. "I think with us, if we create chances, we play in behind their forwards who hopefully don't track back as much, as you have seen, then we can possess the ball a little more. The more we have the ball, the less he does."

The Revs have had a tough time keeping opponents off the board this season, allowing 14 goals across their eight MLS matches. Miami leads the league with 22 goals scored this season. Messi has seven of those goals, while Luis Suarez has tallied six of his own. 

Will Messi draw a record crowd at Gillette Stadium?

In a release last month, the Revolution announced that 60,000 tickets had been sold for their match against Messi and Miami, with 5,000 tickets remaining at that time. Chances are those have been scooped up as the anticipation of Messi Madness built. 

Saturday's match is expected to eclipse the current highest-attended Revolution game: The 2002 MLS Cup title bout between New England and the L.A. Galaxy, which drew 61,316 fans to Gillette Stadium on October 20, 2002.

The current record for attendance for a regular season Revs match is 57,407, which was set on April 20, 1997 when the Revolution hosted the Tampa Bay Mutiny. That match was part of a doubleheader with a FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Mexico and the United States. 

The best attendance for just a Revolution regular season match was the 42,947 that packed the stadium on Oct. 17, 2015 to see a 1-0 Revs loss to the Montreal Impact. The club nearly surpassed that record in their 2023 regular-season finale, when 41,355 were on hand to watch the Revolution play Philadelphia on Oct. 21.

If Saturday's crowd goes over 64,000, it will be just the third time a soccer match at Gillette surpasses that mark. The biggest soccer crowd in the stadium's history was set on Sept. 12, 2007, when 67,584 fans attended an international friendly between Brazil and Mexico. There were 64,121 fans in attendance on June 4, 2011 for another international friendly between Spain and the United States.

United States v Spain
Fans attends the International Friendly match between the United States and Spain at Gillette Stadium on June 4, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Gail Oskin / Getty Images

Chances are there will be a lot of Argentina and Inter Miami CF jerseys in the crowd. But the Revolution are pretty excited to play in front of a packed house at Gillette Stadium. They hope that after the match, more folks will consider themselves Revs supporters.

"The biggest game in Boston soccer history, I think, when you look at the attendance. So, it's a great opportunity for us to catapult our season, to get new fans, to show the Greater Boston community what the Revs are about, that they can get excited about this other team that happens to be in Boston other than football and hockey and baseball and basketball," said Porter "So, our players are excited, really excited. There are a lot eyes on this match, so if you're a player that wants to perform on the biggest stage, this is a big stage."

"It will be awesome to see Gillette filled out, to see the love for soccer in the Boston area," added Lima. "Then, we go out and play it as another game and use the home-crowd energy to our advantage. Our goal, our main focus will be to go get three points, and the rest is icing on the cake. Hopefully, we can take from that good energy."

Messi's visit is part of a packed Saturday of New England sports

New England fans are going to be working the screens on Saturday night, as Messi's visit is one of four games on the docket. Plus, the New England Patriots will be busy all day Saturday on the final day of the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Red Sox will get a packed evening in Boston/New England sports going at 4 p.m. with the second game of a three-game set with the Chicago Cubs at Fenway Park. The Celtics will tip off a few hours later, with Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Heat set for 6 p.m. in Miami.

The Revs and Miami will kick things off at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 p.m., with the match streaming on Apple TV as part of the MLS Season Pass. And a short time after that match starts, the puck will drop for Game 4 of the Bruins-Maple Leafs playoff series up in Toronto at 8 p.m.

Plan ahead, sports fans. Saturday night is gonna be a busy one. 

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