Lionel Messi, Inter Miami
Lionel Messi has been fouled 15 times this MLS season, an average of 1.6 fouls per game Sam Navarro/Via TODAY Sports

SEATTLE - Despite Inter Miami's amazing start to the season, it's not all rose colored for Lionel Messi, who was clearly unhappy with the way MLS officiated his team's 3-2 comeback win over CF Montréal over the weekend.

The Argentine superstar was seen criticizing the league's rules as he was forced to wait on the sidelines for a couple of minutes after receiving on-field treatment in the first half. While waiting on the sidelines, Messi was captured on camera saying "with these type of rules, we are headed in the wrong way."

Major League Soccer introduced the "Off-Field Treatment Rule" in April, stating that "if a player remains on the ground for more than 15 seconds and the medical staff enters the field of play, the player may be required to leave the field of play for two minutes."

But why was Messi so frustrated with the officials? Well, the Argentine was fouled by Montréal's George Campbell and had to wait on the sidelines while his team played with one man down for two minutes. Despite the referee calling the foul on Inter Miami's favor, Herons' coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino believes the team that suffered the foul was the one that was actually punished.

In his postgame press conference, Martino said "with these new rule changes, there are situations that must be revised."

But just as the "Off-Field Treatment Rule" has reduced time wasting, it has created instances, such as Messi's case, in which a team can be at a disadvantage over something the opponent caused.

The introduction of the rule was a measure for MLS to reduce time wasting. Since April 20 when the rule was implemented, the average of stoppages per game has gone down from 5.25 to 1.77, according to MLS data.

The only way for a player that needs medical treatment without spending any time on the sidelines is if the player on the receiving end of a foul draws a yellow or a red card. That, in Messi's opinion, is what's wrong with the rule.

MLS' efforts to reduce time wasting were initially introduced in 2022 using its reserve league MLS Next Pro. Another rule implemented by the league targeted substitutions, stating that a player must leave the field in 10 seconds if they don't want their replacement to wait another minute to enter the field.

The Herons also had to deal with this rule in the same game, as Luis Suárez took more than 10 seconds to exit the field. "We thought Suárez exited the pitch in under a minute, the fourth official did not see it that way and so Leo Campana's entry to the game was delayed," Martino said.

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