Lionel Messi draws large crowds to Soldier Field for soccer match between Argentina, Ecuador

Messi's minutes to be managed in Copa América warmups, Argentina manager says

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team and John Garcia WLS logo
Monday, June 10, 2024
Lionel Messi draws large crowds to Soldier Field for soccer match
Lionel Messi drew large crowds to Chicago's Soldier Field Sunday for a friendly Copa América warmup soccer match between Argentina and Ecuador.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Soccer fans packed Soldier Field Sunday night as superstar Lionel Messi visited Chicago.

Messi got limited playing time in the friendly match between Argentina and Ecuador, but fans still had Messi fever.

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Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni suggested Lionel Messi would likely be a substitute in Sunday's friendly against Ecuador at Soldier Field in Chicago to ensure the player remains healthy for Copa América.

I grew up playing soccer. I look up to him.
Martin Juarez, Lional Messi fan

"People will be able to see Messi... He will surely play for a while. We are going to think carefully about the minutes that each one will have to be healthy for the debut," Scaloni said in his pre-match news conference. "Messi I imagine he will play, I don't know if the whole game, 30 minutes, 60, whatever. But people are going for it to be able to see what is the most important thing."

Argentina fans were in downtown in big numbers, with many wearing the jersey of Messi. Over 51,000 fans showed up to the game.

"If he scores, that's life-changing for me," Argentina fan Martin Juarez said. "I grew up playing soccer. I look up to him."

Some fans were overwhelmed as the Inter Miami star took the field in Chicago.

"I'm a big Messi fan," Argentina fan Wilson Mendez said. "It's my dream to see him play in person."

In the Loop, hundreds of Messi fans crowded the doors of the Blackstone Hotel Sunday afternoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the superstar leaving to board the bus for the short ride to Soldier Field.

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The Argentina fanbase was not to be outdone by Ecuador fans who were also in the windy city in big numbers, wearing yellow jerseys to show their national pride outside Soldier Field before the match.

Some Ecuador fans drove four hours from Ohio for the game.

"We couldn't miss the game," Ecuador fan Lexi Bonifaz said.

Fans without a ticket also crowded into some Chicago bars to catch the action on TV.

"Anytime Messi plays, there's interest," said Charlie Jaimes with Birra N. "Any time people can get to see their idol play, they're gonna be there."

Things get a lot more serious for Argentina and Ecuador in a week and a half. That's when the COPA tournament begins. Argentina is the defending champion, and they'll be playing in this country for the second time in the tournament's history.

Messi last played for Argentina as a substitute on Oct. 12, 2023, coming off the bench in the 1-0 victory against Paraguay at the Estadio Monumental in Argentina.

Argentina has yet to announce its final 26-player roster for the Copa América, waiting until these friendlies to make the final cuts.

ESPN contributed to this report.