Lionel Messi is not thinking as far ahead as the FIFA 2026 World Cup with the Argentina international focused solely on the 2024 Copa America next summer. Both events will take place at least partially in the United States with Mexico and Canada also involved in hosting the World Cup in 2026. Messi, at least for now, is sticking to his position that he remains doubtful to play on internationally until that point despite his strong start to like with Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.
"I am not thinking about the World Cup and I am not saying 100 percent that I will not be there because anything can happen," Messi told Star+ one year on from Qatar. "Given my age, the most normal thing is that I will not be there. Then we will see to what extent. Maybe we do well in the Copa America and we continue. Maybe not. Being realistic is difficult.
"I said it several times and it is a reality: I will always try to compete to the maximum and I am the first to know when I can be there and when I cannot. I am also aware that I went to a lesser league, but a lot happens personally and I deal with it all by competing."
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Messi is currently focused on leading world champions Argentina at Copa America although World Cup qualification is already underway with the Albiceleste currently leading the way in the CONMEBOL section. The 36-year-old eight-time Ballon d'Or winner is expected to feature heavily in the U.S. soccer scene next year with Inter Miami likely to be a much stronger force in MLS and Lionel Scaloni's world champions favorites to win the Copa American title Stateside -- potentially against the USMNT.
"As long as I feel that I am fine and I can continue contributing, I am going to do it. Today the only thing I think about is getting to the Copa America well and being able to compete in it. Fighting it again like we always have, trying to be champions.
"Then time will tell if I am there or not. I am going to arrive at an age (39) that I normally would not be able to play in the World Cup. I said that I do not think I am going to be there. It seemed that after the World Cup I was retiring and quite the opposite. Now I want to be there more than ever. After suffering for so many years, today we live a special moment that I have never experienced before, and I want to enjoy it to the fullest. I feel good within the group, which is very united, very healthy. A group that enjoys being together. I want to take advantage of all that, without thinking about two or three years, which in football is a lot."
The USMNT will not be on the same side of the draw as Argentina or Mexico so a potential clash with Messi will require as run to the final for the Stars and Stripes. The U.S. will be in Group C while Argentina are in Group A as defending champions while El Tri is in Group B as defending Gold Cup champions. Brazil goes into Group D as the next best CONMEBOL nation in the rankings after Argentina.