Whitecaps tell fans not to expect Messi for Miami MLS clash

Hosts Vancouver Whitecaps warned eager fans the club don’t expect Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi to be playing against them when the Major League Soccer teams clash Saturday.

Whitecaps chief executive Axel Schuster said in a statement Thursday that the Vancouver club wanted to give fans desperate to see the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner advance notice.

Star Miami teammates Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets are also not expected to feature, he said. Inter Miami have not made any official statement regarding their fitness.

“While we haven’t received an official update on the availability of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Sergio Busquets for this weekend, we understand they will not make this trip,” Schuster said.

“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.”

The Whitecaps said they were expecting a crowd of more than 50,000 at their BC Place ground.

In a bid to soften the disappointment for fans who snapped up tickets in expectation of seeing Messi, the club will provide food and beverage at 50 percent off, with free kids meals.

“We know that there will also be a lot of disappointed fans,” Schuster said.

“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.”

Messi, 36, has become the face of MLS since joining Miami last July, but he has yet to make an appearance in Vancouver.

After the cross-continent road trip, Miami host Eastern Conference rivals Atlanta on Wednesday.

Argentine great Messi returned to the starting lineup in a 1-0 victory over D.C. United last Saturday after he missed a goalless draw in Orlando City that ended the club’s five-match winning streak.

Miami coach Gerardo Martino said Messi had experienced discomfort in a knee after taking a knock the previous week at Montreal.


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