1 of 3 | After over a two-hour rain delay, seven-time Ballon d'Or winner and World Wide Champion Lionel Messi is welcomed to the Inter Miami CF team by team managing owner Jorge Mas during the unveiling event at the DRV Pink Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
July 16 (UPI) -- Lionel Messi is ready to start competing and wants to help Inter Miami "grow," he said at his introduction ceremony for the MLS club Sunday at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Messi, his wife, Antonella, and sons Thiago, Mateo and Ciro were flooded with cheers from a crowd of nearly 20,000 at the event, which was delayed two hours because of rain and lightning.
The soccer supporters wore Inter Miami pink Messi shirts and replicas of his Argentina national team jersey. They waved flags, screamed and sang throughout the event.
"I want to thank all the people in Miami for this welcome, this affection since I arrived here," Messi said from a stage built on the field. "I am very excited to be with you."
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner is expected to make his Inter Miami playing debut on Friday in Fort Lauderdale. He will sport his familiar No. 10 as the new anchor for the club, which currently owns the worst record (5-14-3) in MLS.
The Argentine announced his intention to sign with Inter Miami on June 7, turning down offers to play in Europe and Saudi Arabia. His new MLS club made the signing official on Saturday. He is signed through 2025.
"I really want to start training and competing," Messi said. "I really want to win and for this club to keep growing.
"I hope that throughout the [season] you will continue to accompany us. Personally, I believe that my teammates are going to give everything to build this project and I am very happy to have chosen this city, to have chosen this project and I have no doubt that we are going to have a great time and we are going to experience very nice things."
Messi's likely debut will come in a Leagues Cup match against Cruz Azul. That game will air at 8 p.m. EDT Friday on Apple TV.
Sunday's showcase featured a light show, fireworks and speeches from Messi, Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas and co-owner David Beckham.
NFL legend Tom Brady, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, U.S. men's manager Gregg Berhalter and Argentine tennis star Juan Martin del Potro were among those who welcomed Messi through messages displayed on the stadium video board.
"Please forgive me for feeling a little bit emotional tonight," Beckham said. "It truly is a dream come true to welcome Lionel Messi to Inter Miami."
Inter Miami also introduced midfielder Sergio Busquets to fans at the ceremony. Busquets, a longtime Messi teammate at FC Barcelona, will wear No. 5 for Inter Miami.
He also signed a contract through 2025.
"For me, it's a pleasure to be part of Inter Miami," Busquets said. "I am so excited to start training and playing with my teammates."
Inter Miami will face Charlotte FC in their next MLS match at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 in Fort Lauderdale.
"We promised this city that we would dream, that we would sign the best players in the world, the best player in the world," Mas said. "Tonight, that dream comes true."