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Lion Links: 6/3/21

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Florida Cup announces 2021 lineup, Orlando in the MLS and NWSL power rankings, Messi to MLS rumors return, and more.

SOCCER: NOV 29 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal - New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello everybody, it’s Thursday. Even without MLS games on the schedule, there’s plenty to discuss today in our world of soccer. Before we get into anything, happy birthday to Orlando City’s own Daryl Dike!

2021 Florida Cup Lineup Announced

The Florida Cup is back in 2021! The pre-season tournament featuring some of the biggest teams from Europe and South America is back for 2021 this time kicking off in July, starting July 25. The first match day will feature two semifinal matches before a third-place match and championship final on July 28. All games will be played at the former home of Orlando City, Camping World Stadium.

The tournament has always brought in heavy hitters and 2021 will be no exception. The four announced participants are Everton and Arsenal of England’s Premier League, Inter Milan of Italy’s Serie A, and Millonarios FC of Colombia’s Categoría Primera A. Everton and Arsenal, especially Arsenal, are two of the biggest brands in England, though Everton are fringe contenders for continental football and Arsenal are coming off their worst season in a forever. Inter Milan is the real draw of the tournament. The Nerazzurri are coming off their first league title in a decade and have an incredibly exciting squad, highlighted by Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku. It is worth noting, however, that Inter is having serious financial issues, which already cost the team its head coach, and could move multiple star players before we even reach preseason. Millonarios are one of the top clubs in the Colombian league and regular fixtures in Copa Libertadores.

Power Rankings Roundup

Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride are in good places in the land of arbitrary power rankings. Following its loss to the New York Red Bulls, Orlando City slid down a spot to seventh in MLSoccer.com’s rankings, behind two teams the Lions played to a draw (New York City FC, Sporting Kansas City) and a Galaxy team that only won last week due to a heroic goalkeeping performance. Still sitting pretty in the top 10 despite the loss though.

The Orlando Pride, on the other hand, continue to get the respect their first place start to the season merits. They jumped four spots to first in the Yahoo! Sports NWSL Power Rankings after an impressive three-win week. The Pride are the team to beat in the NWSL right now, and that feels good to write.

U.S. Men Prepare for Nations League Semifinals

While there’s no MLS on the schedule, the American soccer calendar doesn’t sleep. The U.S. Men’s National Team will play its first competitive fixture in what feels like an eternity tonight against Honduras for a spot in the CONCACAF Nations League final. We’ve already seen one U.S. team lose a semifinal to Honduras this year, so for many of us this game means that much more. No more excuses for Gregg Berhalter and his team, they need to turn their promise into results starting now.

Daryl Dike will not be celebrating his birthday with an appearance for the Red, White & Blue, as he was not named to the official roster for Nations League, but he has been with the team since his Barnsley side exited the promotion playoffs and is expected to feature in the June 9 friendly.

Lionel Messi linked to Inter Miami

This report is seems so far from credible, but it’s definitely interesting. Lionel Messi, the best player in the world — probably the best player ever — is once again being linked with MLS, this time as a part of a 10-year extension with FC Barcelona. Reports out of Spain claim the Argentine could be set to join Inter Miami outfit after two more years in Barcelona, similar to another rumored move involving Manchester City and New York City.

There are problems all over this hypothetical transfer. For one, Messi would allegedly be paid over $70 million while in South Florida, exponentially higher than any player in league history, many times higher than even the highest spending teams combined. There are talks Barcelona would be paying him most of that figure to offset the salary spend for Ft. Lauderdale, but surely MLS wouldn’t allow something that sketchy (oh wait). In all seriousness, I wouldn’t put too much stock into this, as cool as it would be to have the all-time greatest player in MLS.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for today, thank you all for reading, have a great one!