Lionel Messi said it was a "shame" he could not play in Inter Miami's pre-season friendly in Hong Kong on Sunday, with his absence leaving angry fans demanding a refund.
Miami is one of the latest cities to receive an MLS franchise, with the expansion team first taking to the field in 2020.
An MLS return to Miami had long been rumoured, ever since the Miami Fusion folded in 2001. The first attempt in 2009 failed as a group led by FC Barcelona and Bolivian entrepreneur Marcelo Claure couldn't secure a stadium. The next effort came from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, but the league instead decided to work with international soccer legend David Beckham.
When he signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, Beckham also decided to purchase a future expansion team in MLS for $25million.
With the new stadium at Miami Freedom Park under construction and expected to open in 2022, Inter Miami signed a deal to play in Fort Lauderdale on the site of the former Lockhart Stadium that hosted the Strikers of the USL.
Inter Miami's early seasons
They brought in big names like Julian Carranza and Matias Pellegrini from Argentina and Christian Makoun from Venezuela. They paid $100,000 in General Allocation Money for midfielder Jay Chapman from Toronto FC and $75,000 for defender Grant Lillard from Chicago Fire.
Inter Miami played their first-ever MLS game at Los Angeles FC on March 1 and lost 1-0. Six days later, they lost 2-1 at D.C. United with Pizarro scoring the franchise's first-ever goal.
Their home opener was supposed to be against Beckham's former team LA Galaxy, but Covid-19 suspended the season. In June, the Herons added former USMNT defender/midfielder Brek Shea and Argentine defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez from Tijuana in Mexico to their ranks.
Inter Miami finally got to play a home game on August 22 against local rivals Orlando City, although no fans were allowed. Carranza scored two goals in the first half and Pizarro struck in the second half as Inter Miami earned their first-ever win - 3-2 the final score. They added French international and World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi to the midfield in early September. Matuidi was a free transfer from Juventus and he debuted on September 6 in a 0-0 draw against Nashville.
Morgan scored twice in a 2-1 win over Atlanta United on September 9, and the Herons beat Atlanta again 10 days later with goals from Agudelo and Shea.
After a defeat and a draw, Inter beat Orlando City 2-1 at home on October 24, with Gonzalez Pirez scoring the game winner in the 89th minute. Matuidi scored his first goal in a 2-1 loss against Toronto FC on November 1, and Miami went into the final game of the season needing a win to make the play-offs. At home against FC Cincinnati on November 8, Michael Ambrose and Gonzalez Pirez scored in a 2-1 victory to give Miami the last MLS Cup play-off spot.
At Nashville SC in the play-offs, Miami were overwhelmed 3-0 as their season came to a close. Morgan led the team with five goals and five assists over the campaign. Pizarro and Shea each had four goals while Agudelo scored three. Luis Robles started 15 games in goal with two clean sheets and John McCarthy had one clean sheet in eight starts. In 23 games, the Herons earned 24 points with seven wins, three draws and 13 losses. They scored 25 goals over the season and conceded 35.
Former England international Phil Neville took the managerial reins in January 2021, and Miami reached the first round of the play-offs in 2022.
Signing Lionel Messi and winning the Leagues Cup
Inter Miami's rivals
The in-state rivalry was played four times in 2020, with each team winning twice. Orlando City won the first match-up at the MLS is Back Tournament when Nani scored a goal in the seventh minute of added time.
Miami Freedom Park
Their first choice was at PortMiami, next to the home of the NBA's Miami Heat. That plan was eventually shot down due to opposition from the county and the team next looked at a waterfront location at Museum Park.
However, in 2018 they switched gears again, resolving to construct a 25,000-seater stadium in Freedom Park near Miami International Airport.