Lionel Messi Jul 21, 2023; Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA; Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against Cruz Azul during the second half at DRV PNK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Major League Soccer via USA TODAY Sports

Since arriving in the United States, Lionel Messi has been everything that MLS, and Apple for that matter, could’ve hoped for and more. The greatest soccer player of his generation and many would argue of all-time, has shown no signs of slowing down. At 36 years old, Messi continues to make the game look so easy, as he delivers time and time again. And say what you want about Major League Soccer, but it has nothing to do with the quality of play, and everything to do with Messi being a living legend.

Even though he’s already debuted for Inter Miami CF and scored six goals in four games, it should be noted that Messi has not even played a Major League Soccer game yet. He and his new squad are currently participating in the Leagues Cup, which is a new competition between clubs from Major League Soccer and Liga MX.

Jake Zivin, the lead play-by-play commentator for MLS on Apple TV, has gotten to experience that legend quite a few times. Zivin recently joined Comeback Media’s Short and to the Point podcast with host Jessica Kleinschmdit and discussed not only the preparation that goes into calling a game for an international superstar but also working play-by-play for Messi’s stateside debut last month.

“First of all, it’s a lot of pressure. There’s no doubt about it,” Zivin said. “Because we know that there’s gonna be people watching and not just in the United States now. With Apple TV, and with MLS season pass, we’re the voice of record in the English language in 107 counties across the globe. 107 countries have different broadcasting cultures, obviously cultures as well, different television cultures…different styles of calling the game. And we’re are doing our style here for everybody, right? So there’s a lot of pressure there. You hope that you don’t mess up that moment more than anything.”

Zivin said that he knew going into the first game if Messi has any goal it’s a big moment.

“If he scores a great goal, it’s a really big moment,” Zivin added. “I try not to think too much about that because you don’t want to be overwhelmed, don’t want to overwhelm yourself, and certainly don’t want the pressure to get to you.”

Zivin mentioned how the preparation for a player like Messi is different than any other MLS player. While he creates a player card for every player in every game, that has their bio, information, stats and so much more, it’s a bit different when it comes to Messi.

“I compared it to local news. I worked in local news for eight years. You put a graphic on the screen, identifying the speaker for everybody but the President of the United States,” he explained. “You don’t font the president was the rule because everybody knows who the president is. You don’t need to put the president’s name on the screen. I feel like with Messi, it’s kind of similar. I don’t need to give these stats and his bio during a game. He’s Lionel Messi. He’s the greatest player of all time.”

Zivin said the prep is usually less about Messi’s stats and more so how they’re going to cover the moments and how Messi playing for Inter Miami CF in North America, and eventually Major League Soccer, what that ultimately means.

“And just hope that you’re ready for the big moments,” he said. “I’m not one who scripts out goal calls. I do not believe in that at all. I think you have to live in the moment. But on the other hand, you don’t want to be caught off guard. You want to make sure you’re ready when that moment comes.”

Zivin understands the magnitude of the moment(s), you don’t have to tell him twice. Messi has yet to play in a Major League Soccer game and he’s already taken by the United States by storm. He came to the States to live a normal life, and while that may be true, there’s nothing normal about what he does on the field.

“It’s his movie. He’s creating it and we’re just living in it, right?” Zivin quipped. “He’s the main character. We’re the very supporting roles, bitcasts. But it’s crazy. It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest. To think there’s over 100 million views already on that goal just from Major League Soccer’s official channels—Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube–over 100 million all the way around the world, let alone secondary kinds of edits and videos that are tweeted out…Yeah, it’s a little overwhelming. It’s amazing. It’s an honor. It’s remarkable to think that’s gonna be the call and that’s gonna be a moment that’s played over and over again.”

This is what Zivin has always wanted to do, but to think that he’ll forever be associated with Messi’s first goal in the United States is not even something he could’ve dreamed of. And he described the feeling using a word he often dropped during the interview: “overwhelming.”

Short and to the Point with Jessica Kleinschmidt is available wherever you get your podcasts.

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.