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Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami announces two-game tour of China

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami will embark on a two-game postseason tour of China, the team announced Sunday.

Just over two weeks after their 2023 MLS campaign ends, Inter Miami will travel to face Chinese Super League sides Qingdao Hainiu FC and Chengdu Rongcheng on Nov. 5 and 8, respectively.

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“We’re very excited to continue to expand our club’s global reach, bringing our team to play in front of incredible fans across the globe,” Inter Miami chief business officer Xavier Asensi said.

“This is a special opportunity to share the passion as we reach new audiences and put ourselves on display in new places, and we’re looking forward to beginning this adventure.”

Miami — which was eliminated from playoff contention after a loss to FC Cincinnati in its most recent game — has two matchups against Charlotte FC remaining in the MLS regular season, at home Wednesday and in Charlotte on Saturday.

Messi has played in only two of the team’s past seven MLS games because of a hamstring injury, but he did manage 35 minutes off the bench in the loss to Cincinnati and played 37 minutes for Argentina in its 1-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying win over Paraguay on Friday.

If healthy, the Argentine legend — who has scored 11 goals in his first season with Miami — will certainly be the main attraction for fans attending games on this two-game tour of China, whose national team has only appeared in one World Cup (2002).

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The Chinese Super League has managed to attract a number of high-profile Brazilian signings over recent years, including Oscar, Hulk, Alex Teixeira and Paulinho — though many of those players have now moved on.

“This will be a great opportunity to continue building on our 2023 campaign, in which we achieved our first-ever trophy,” sporting director and chief soccer officer Chris Henderson said.

“We will take this as an opportunity to begin our preparations for 2024, as we look to build on last season and find more success moving forward.”

Miami, which won the Leagues Cup in August and qualified for the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup in the process, will play the first game of the tour at Qingdao Hainiu’s 50,000-seat stadium that opened in April.

Coached by Spaniard Antonio Carreño, the team returned to the Super League in 2023 after earning successive promotions and is in 13th place (out of 16 teams) with three games remaining.

Chengdu Rongcheng is a five-year-old club that earned promotion in three of its first four seasons, reaching the Chinese top flight in 2022, when it finished fifth. It sits sixth in the table.

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