A congratulations is in order to the people of Harrison, New Jersey, who'll likely be counted among the last to have witnessed one of the final live performances of Lionel Messi in an Argentina jersey.
As part of Argentina's final warmups for the World Cup, La Albiceleste has announced a pair of September friendlies in the United States. On Friday, Sep. 23, Argentina plays Honduras at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami (8 p.m. ET). We'll undoubtedly see a photo of Inter Miami owner David Beckham shaking hands and smiling with Messi at some point, so get ready for the inevitable rumors around this time.
Then, on Tuesday, Sept. 27, Messi's side goes up against the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison (8 p.m. ET).
The Concacaf-heavy fixtures make sense — Argentina's second opponent at the World Cup is Mexico. La Albiceleste also has a final November friendly in Abu Dhabi against the United Arab Emirates, which serves as direct preparation for Argentina's opening match against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22.
Argentina is currently riding a 32-game unbeaten streak that's included triumphs in the 2021 Copa América, the 2022 Finalissima and an unblemished 17-match World Cup qualifying cycle. The 35-year-old Messi is currently at his very best. He's begun his new European season at Paris Saint-Germain with four goals and two assists in four games.
Brazil and France are the favorites in Qatar, but Argentina is certainly alongside England, Spain, Belgium and Germany as the other serious contenders.
Will Messi Retire In 2022?
There's a lot of uncertainty regarding Messi's future at both the club and international level. When Messi joined PSG from Barcelona in 2021, he signed a two-year contract through the 2022-23 season, so it's currently set to expire next June.
The club wants him to sign an extension through at least the 2023-24 campaign, but Messi doesn't want to make any decisions until after the World Cup. The same could be said of Messi's future with the national team.
What we do know for certain is that Messi won't play at the 2024 Copa América in Ecuador. He made it clear to his teammates that the 2021 tournament was his final South American championship, and there's no way he'll reverse that decision after his crowning glory in Brazil.
"I don't know what I will do after the World Cup," Messi said in March. "I am thinking about what is coming. After Qatar, I will have to rethink many things."
"I don't know, the truth is I don't know. Let's hope (the September preparation matches) go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change," he added.
The question is, does Messi play for Argentina at the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States? With potentially seven of CONMEBOL's 10 FIFA members reaching the 48-team tournament, Argentina won't really need the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner in qualifying, but his participation at the finals — even at the age of 39 — would be welcomed.
"After playing in a World Cup, everyone makes assessments," Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni said. "I'm not in the heads of the players to know what they're thinking. In any case, you have to enjoy it. You don't have to think about the future, enjoy their spectacular present. Sometimes, because that's life, one gets old and I think that's normal. But why not think about the spectacular here and now? Why not enjoy him now? It's useless thinking about what is going to happen after the World Cup."
Aside from Messi, 34-year-old Ángel Di María has already confirmed he'll retire from the national team following the tournament. The Juventus winger has been alongside Messi every step of the way, beginning with their Olympic gold in 2008.