Vancouver tells fans: Messi, Suárez aren't coming

The Vancouver Whitecaps have told fans not to expect to see Inter Miami CF stars Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets in their match Saturday at BC Place.

“While we haven’t received an official update on the availability of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, and Sergio Busquets for this weekend, we understand they will not make this trip. Unfortunately, we have no control over who plays for our opponent, and it was important for us to communicate to our fans as soon as possible,” Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster said in a statement.

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If the three former Barcelona stars don’t make the trip, it won’t be due to injury, with sources telling ESPN that all are fit.

Messi, Suárez and Busquets all participated in Miami’s open training Tuesday night at Chase Stadium, completing the one-hour session and interacting with season-ticket holders following the drills.

Inter Miami has yet to provide a statement in response to its opponent’s news release.

Saturday’s game marks the first time Inter Miami and the Vancouver Whitecaps face off in MLS, with scheduling preventing the teams in opposing conferences from playing one another.

“We always want our best players going up against our opponent’s best players, and facing players of the highest pedigree was especially exciting for our team,” the Whitecaps added in their statement. “We know that there will also be a lot of disappointed fans. We remain committed to making this a special experience for everyone. It is still going to be an incredible atmosphere and celebration of soccer for our city. We have amazing fans, we have a good team, and Saturday’s match is a very important home game for us.”

The Whitecaps expect a club MLS-era record-breaking crowd Saturday — with more than 50,000 people expected to attend the match — selling out tickets and hosting “the biggest street party in the team’s history.” Vancouver will be offering a 50% discount on all in-stadium food and beverage to fans to mitigate any disappointment should Messi, Suárez and Busquets not make the trip for the game.

It will be Messi’s seventh absence of the year because of a leg injury or rest. The Whitecaps play on turf at BC Place, but the 2022 World Cup winner has said he is willing to play on it, unlike many other players.

Another possible reason Messi and his former Barcelona teammates are sitting is the distance from Miami to Vancouver. A nonstop flight is nearly 2,900 miles, and Inter Miami has to turn around and play Atlanta United at home on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old Argentine star has 10 goals in 10 MLS games this season and leads the league in assists with 12. Miami leads the Eastern Conference standings and Vancouver is seventh in the West.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this story.

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