Lionel Messi extended his incredible goal-scoring streak as Inter Miami powered into the final of the Leagues Cup with a 4-1 victory over Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.
The Argentina superstar took his tally to nine goals in six appearances for Miami in a one-sided semi-final at Philadelphia's Subaru Park. Miami thus reached their first major final in club history.
Venezuelan international Josef Martinez, Messi's former Barcelona team-mate Jordi Alba, and substitute David Ruiz scored Miami's other goals, with Alejandro Bedoya the lone scorer for Philadelphia.
Messi made it 2-0 in the 20th minute with his latest outstanding effort. Messi was afforded some space about 30 yards from goal and took advantage, unleashing another low effort past the diving goalkeeper and inside the right post.
The result leaves Messi preparing for the 42nd final of his career with Miami facing Nashville SC in Saturday's final of the tournament for teams from Mexico and Major League Soccer.
“They're only going to get better. That Miami team is gonna go,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “Their ownership is going to spend like crazy. They're going to make them the best team in the league. They might already be the best team in the league. That's coming and I don't think anything's stopping them.”
Miami were left basking in a victory which also sees them qualify for the CONCACAF Champions Cup regional tournament next season - potentially opening up a route into FIFA's expanded Club World Cup in 2025.
"Our goal was to qualify for international competition next season and we've done that tonight," said Miami head coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino.
"This most important thing was achieving qualification for Concacaf Champions Cup, and now we have to prepare to win this tournament, which has us feeling very motivated and confident."
It was an unexpected result as Philadelphia were, in theory, supposed to be the toughest assignment yet faced by Messi since he made his debut for Miami.
Philadelphia are one of the strongest teams in MLS, and are third in the Eastern Conference standings while Miami are bottom of the table.
The Union have also been practically invincible at home, losing only once in their previous 38 games at Subaru Park.