Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Luis Suárez not traveling to Vancouver; Whitecaps offer fans food discounts

The trio are expected to play when the team returns home for two matches next week ahead of the international break.

Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suárez are expected to play when Inter Miami returns home for two matches next week ahead of the international break. (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Inter Miami will travel to Vancouver for Saturday night's match against the Whitecaps without Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suárez.

The three stars are not injured, according to the Miami Herald's Michelle Kaufman. The reason for leaving them behind is the combination of a long flight from Miami to Vancouver and a congested upcoming schedule that will see the Herons play three games — two at home — in eight days before the June international break.

Keeping their star players healthy is vital for Inter Miami this season. They currently lead MLS with 31 points in 15 games. Having Messi, Suárez, Busquets, along with Jordi Alba for a full season is vital in their quest to add more silverware in 2024 to go along with their Leagues Cups title last summer.

Managing minutes and rest for Inter Miami's stars has been a difficult challenge. There is the cash cow that comes with having Messi on your team, but with the Argentinian star turning 37 next month and expected to play in this summer's Copa América, the club has to be wary about injuries that have already caused him to miss games during his MLS tenure.

The traveling Messi show means sold out stadiums for other MLS teams — games that wouldn't generate as much revenue had it been against a different side. But when injury or rest forces Messi to sit out, it has a big affect on their opponents.

For the Whitecaps, they were ready to welcome 55,000 fans to BC Place on Saturday night, but the disappointment is already setting in.

“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,“ said Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster in a statement.

“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. 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."

As for those Whitecaps fans who will be at the match Saturday night, the club has planned "the biggest street party in the team's history" and all in-stadium food and drinks will be 50% off. Kids under 18 will be given "one free kids meal combo."

This isn't the first time an MLS team has had to try and make it up to their fans due to a Messi absence.

In September, the Chicago Fire were looking forward to 61,000 fans filling up Soldier Field but the Inter Miami star didn't play due to injury. The club offered fans in attendance a $250 credit towards 2024 season tickets.

After Saturday's game in Vancouver, Inter Miami will face Atlanta on May 29 and St. Louis on June 1. The MLS regular season will resume following the international break on June 15.