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When Inter Miami signed Lionel Messi last summer, the goal was not only to dominate Major League Soccer but also to announce themselves on a global scale. While they've done that from a commercial standpoint, Wednesday's loss to Monterrey in the Concacaf Champions Cup shows just how far the soccer side of things has to go. You can blame MLS roster constraints for Miami's lack of depth in comparison to Monterrey's balance, but roster rules didn't force Miami to spend all of their money on stars leaving the bench filled with homegrown players without much match experience for arguably the most important match in their history.

Roster constraints also didn't stop Tata Martino from making a single substitutiocn in that same match despite having Benjamin Cremaschi back available and Leo Alfonso coming off of scoring his first goal for the team just five days prior. You need to look no further than Wilfried Nancy's Columbus Crew for how to transcend the roster constraints while competing with Liga MX sides that have deeper pockets.

These past few weeks have shown that a team approach is more important than starts. Nancy benched Cucho Hernandez in the first leg against Tigres for a violation of team policy. The Crew went on to draw the match before going into Mexico on his return and winning a penalty shootout behind two saves from Patrick Schulte. With the contribution of players groomed in MLS Next Pro combined with spending for stars who fit the system, the Crew are a hallmark of how sustainable success in this league can be built, taking a page from the Seattle Sounders who remain the only MLS side to win Concacaf Champions Cup.

In Miami, things are a little different. They can be given a pass on not having academy success because that takes time and the team was only established in 2018. In players like Cremaschi, they're on the right track and may be able to flesh out parts of the roster from within moving forward but moving established MLS veterans like Dixon Arroyo, Kamal Miller, and DeAndre Yedlin to accommodate lavish spending isn't what will push the team forward.

"I mentioned this earlier. If MLS doesn't ease the various rules it has to have deeper rosters, with injuries and suspensions, Liga MX will continue to have the advantage," Martino said in his post-match press conference. "Still, I've always thought, even while working in Mexico and now working in the U.S., that the comparison between the two leagues is useless.

"MLS still cannot compete with Liga MX at the same level because of roster rules. I think the process will be changing, with alterations coming in the short term."

Things may have been different if at least one of Robert Taylor or Facundo Farias was available facing Rayados but given Farias' injury history, he also can't have been expected to be Messi's primary backup. Miami lack creativity when Messi is off the pitch and at 36, the Argentine is spending more time off the pitch than ever before. 

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With the Copa America on the horizon, even though he could have split priorities, being healthy enough to pay for Argentina during the summer is also important. Returning to the starting XI from an injury, some of those thoughts seemed present as Monterrey made Messi seem human, something that MLS teams haven't been able to accomplish.

If the Herons are going to get to the level of Rayados moving forward, it's time for a rethink. Changes to league rules will likely be coming during the summer transfer window allowing them to spend more money but it needs to be spent effectively. Messi and friends have been a great thing to build around and the early returns on Federico Redondo show that there is a player there but investment needs to be made in quality depth and the defense.

Despite being at fault for the opening goal, Drake Callender is a quality keeper when a proper setup is put in front of him and Martino didn't do that against Monterrey. The loss of Miller meant the loss of a mobile defender who could help keep him out of tough situations and it shows.

For Miami's project to be successful, they have to be a sustainable team even without Messi magic and it isn't there. When Messi doesn't start, Inter Miami are a below-average MLS team and if they run into more issues with his availability this season, winning any trophies could be a struggle. With proper coaching and investment, it's a fixable issue but if it's not done soon, there is every chance that Miami after Messi could be the same as Miami prior to him and that was one of the worst teams in the league.