Monday, June 17, 2024

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets won’t play vs. Vancouver Saturday

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Lionel Messi fans in Vancouver hoping to see the World Cup champion play Saturday night won’t get the chance.

Messi, Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets did not travel with Inter Miami on its cross-continent flight Thursday from South Florida to Vancouver. 

Inter Miami is scheduled to play Vancouver Whitecaps FC Saturday night, with kickoff slated for 10:30 p.m. ET. 

Messi and his former Barcelona teammates are not injured. With two home games next week and at least 12 hours of expected travel to and from Vancouver, club officials opted to rest the trio, a person with knowledge of the decision told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC, which said it had expected a club record crowd Saturday, also released a statement Thursday night: 

“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 FC CEO Axel Schuster said 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.”

All in-stadium food and beverages will be discounted 50%, and all kids will be provided one free kids meal combo for the game, Vancouver said.

Messi played the entire match last Saturday at home vs. D.C. United, but did appear to favor his left leg during a Tuesday night practice open to media and season-ticket holders.

Messi initially suffered a left leg injury in Montreal on May 11. He appeared to hyperextend his leg during a collision with a Montreal player. Inter Miami identified the injury as a knock or a blow, and not a muscular or structural injury, the week following the injury.

Messi sat out of Inter Miami’s match on May 15 on the road against Orlando City as a precaution.

After the Vancouver match, Inter Miami will host Atlanta United on May 29 and St. Louis City SC on June 1 — the last two matches Messi will play before the FIFA international window begins next month.

Messi will also participate in two Argentina friendlies before Copa America begins. He will captain Argentina against Ecuador at Chicago’s Solider Field on June 9. Five days later, Messi and Argentina will face Guatemala at Commanders Field in Landover, Maryland.

Messi and Argentina will take center stage in the Copa America opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on June 20.

Argentina is the defending World Cup and Copa America champions, and the tournament could be Messi’s last for his country.

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