Lionel Messi scored his ninth goal with his new club and Inter Miami reached the first major final in club history by dispatching the Philadelphia Union 4-1 in a Leagues Cup semifinal on Tuesday in Chester, Pa.
All nine of Messi's goals since his Miami introduction last month have come in the Leagues Cup, a tournament contested between all 47 teams in Major League Soccer and Liga MX.
He will look for his 10th (or more) in Saturday night's final against Nashville SC or CF Monterrey, who were set to contest the other semifinal later on Tuesday.
Josef Martinez opened the scoring with his third goal of the tournament, and Messi's former FC Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba scored his first goal for the Herons in the win, with all of those coming before halftime.
David Ruis added late insurance for a Miami team that has outscored opponents 21-7 in their six games during the tournament.
Alejandro Bedoya pulled a late goal back for Philadelphia, which will exit yet another knockout competition in the later stages without a title.
The Union lost on penalties in last year's MLS Cup final, exited in the semifinals of 2023 CONCACAF Champions League this spring and were beaten in the 2021 MLS Eastern Conference finals. They've also lost three U.S. Open Cup finals since 2014.
Conventional wisdom suggested this would be Messi's toughest test since his arrival in America, but it was all Miami beginning with Martinez's third-minute strike.
The Herons went very direct, with defender Sergii Kryvtsov playing a ball over the top for the striker to run onto down the right.
Martinez reached it, carved out space on the right side of the box, and then hammered a low and hard strike between goalkeeper Andre Blake and the far post.
Messi made it 2-0 in the 20th minute on his latest outstanding strike from beyond the penalty area. His two previous goals came on free kicks.
This time, Messi was afforded some space about 30 yards from goal in open play and took advantage, unleashing another low effort past the diving Blake and inside the right post.
Alba scored on a break down the left in first-half stoppage time to effectively seal the outcome.
—Field Level Media