‘Messi Meets America’ Showrunner on Capturing “Magical” Moments On and Off the Field

Lionel Messi, who many consider to be the greatest soccer player of all time, made global headlines this summer when he signed an unprecedented deal to play for Inter Miami Football Club. The Messi effect was instant — with tickets to Miami games across the country skyrocketing in price and selling out.

Apple TV+ has broadcast rights to MLS games for the next decade — giving fans a front row seat to watch Messi on the field — but it’s also home to a docuseries about the legendary footballer.

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The team at Smuggler Entertainment had already been working with Messi on another project, a separate untitled docuseries centered on his 2022 World Cup win with the Argentina national team, and his move to Miami created an opportunity to tell the exciting next chapter in his story.

“The first three episodes tell the story of this magical transformational moment, and you get a real sense of how it happened because there was a lot going on behind the scenes,” Messi Meets America showrunner Scott Boggins tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Then you’re taken on this incredible ride through the Leagues Cup. Absolutely no one expected what had happened. You’re with that team during that incredible historic moment. That’s a great sports story.”

Those first three episodes are available on Apple TV+ now. The last three, two of which will be released on Nov. 1., show a different side of Messi and Miami.

“The next three episodes are an amazing personal story. You start to see and really understand these individuals and you truly have a better understanding of Lio himself,” says Boggins. “These are priceless moments that no one has ever been able to capture before, and we’re so thrilled and so honored that we were able to do it.”

Boggins spoke with THR about how the docuseries came together, the challenges of making sure it appeals to even the most casual soccer fans and what to expect in the next three episodes.

Where did the idea for Messi Meets America start? At what point in the process of Lionel Messi coming to Inter Miami did this become part of the conversation?

The genesis of this was with the production company, Smuggler Entertainment. Tim Pastore had been nurturing and working on the relationship with Lionel Messi’s group way before the series was official or went into production on Apple TV+. They did an amazing job setting us up. I was brought in as the showrunner and was able to bring in a lot of folks that I had worked with through many, many projects.

We started in the midst of a super chaotic period in July. This was during a seismic shift. They had brought in a new coach. That in itself is a major transition and then, to everyone’s surprise, they brought in the best player in the world, the best player who’s ever played, to Miami. It was really remarkable to be a part of that and to be embedded in it. To be able to show that from the inside looking out has been just a thrill.

This is a transformative moment in the game here in this country. When you bring in someone like that, it changes everything. There will be generations who will be inspired. We’ve seen that. I’ve seen pink jerseys everywhere. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling for this project you don’t have to be in Miami to see young and old wearing pink jerseys. The interest has been remarkable.

When you’re dealing with, as you said, a transformative moment in sports here, how do you capture it and tell the story without adding to the chaos?

We have incredible partners with the MLS and Inter Miami, and they allowed us to stay embedded. It’s a rollercoaster. There’s good days and there’s bad days. We were saying, listen, we want to be woven into your everyday schedule and just let us hang around. So you have a better understanding how things are going. You get a sense of how a team is trying to overcome adversity, and also how they manage success. What they did in Nashville was a window of what this team can be like next season. [Inter Miami CF head coach] Tata Martino has an incredible assignment in front of him, to put all these pieces together. He did so in an amazing way very quickly.

But how do you sustain that over the course of the season and into next year and the year after that? We wanted to make this story accessible to non-fans alike. That was really important. The way you do that is you tell the sides of the story that can really resonate. We’ve been very fortunate. Players have been gracious with their time. You’ll see in our last episode there was a wonderful moment of a surprise birthday party with one of the players. Those moments are really magical, and those are the things that happen with every team all over the place. We’re hoping that we can provide just a little bit more for people to understand how special this moment is, how special this team is, and most importantly, how special Lionel Messi is.

How do you balance on the field moments and behind-the-scenes and interviews so it doesn’t feel like it’s too much of any one thing?

You’re going to see that play out even more in the next three episodes. We were just trying to follow the story, and the story was moving very quickly. We came in July and then suddenly they were in the Leagues Cup. They went on that incredible run and it culminated in Nashville. As storytellers, we definitely wanted to show what was going on in the field, but we wanted to get a sense of what was going on outside the field. When we went into these communities like Dallas and Nashville and Philadelphia, and we started to explore the stories of everyday people who saved up and were able to get a ticket and come, we wanted to tell those stories as well. On top of the game action, which was really compelling, we wanted to make the stories accessible to non-fans or casual fans.

In previous projects, I found that to be able to do that is to really tell these personal stories of players and their families and explore what they mean to everyday people. The balance is a challenge because the gameplay and what he’s doing on the field is amazing. I mean, he’s just magical on the field. So we had to try to find a balance of, okay, that’s amazing and we’re going to tell that story, but at the same time we want casual or even non-fans alike to really get connected with this story and with this team. You’re going to see a lot more of that in the next three episodes because what happened after the Leagues Cup has been well-documented. They had a huge mountain to climb, but they hit the road again. They went to New York and they went to L.A. and that’s in our fourth episode. In the fifth and sixth episode, you’re going to see Messi at home. You’re going to get to see him as a father and a husband. We were very fortunate to capture that side of him.

You touched on this a little bit, but how do you make a show that is accessible for people who are new to the sport but at the same time interesting to diehards who know everything about it?

It’s a balance. It really is. That’s the challenge. We are surrounded with really, really talented producers and editors and DPs and, collectively, we all have this huge wealth of experience. That helps us to figure out what are the best stories to follow and how we can keep that balance going so the series could appeal to all different types of fans. When viewers watch the six episodes, there’s going to be something for everyone.

That’s because of Inter Miami, and it’s because of Lionel Messi and his cooperation. It’s because of our partners at the MLS and the opportunity that Apple TV+ has given us to do a real-time documentary series. There’s a lot of these types of shows that are produced in the season, but then are shown six months later, and those are really great projects and documentaries as well. This one is significantly different. This is being shown as the moment is still happening. As people are still dissecting and digesting the story, they’re dying for context and that’s something that this series will provide.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

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