Three of Inter Miami’s four ex-Barcelona stars will not make the cross-country trip to Vancouver for the club’s game against the Whitecaps this weekend.

Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster told the club’s official website in a statement on Thursday night that “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.”

A source briefed on Inter Miami’s travel plans confirmed that none of Messi, Suarez, or Busquets traveled with the team to Vancouver.

A highly-anticipated match

The Whitecaps said in their statement that they are expecting a record-breaking crowd for the match, surpassing the mark set by the club’s 50th anniversary match on May 4th. The 32,465 that attended that day marked the team’s largest crowd in its MLS era (previous versions of the Whitecaps played in various leagues in the U.S. and Canada since 1974).

Schuster said that to make up for the absence of the trio, the team will be offering all stadium food at 50 percent off and a kids meal voucher for attendees under the age of 18.

“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. We have amazing fans, we have a good team, and Saturday’s match is a very important home game for us.”

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Why will those three miss the trip?

The distance between Miami and Vancouver makes it the longest away trip in Major League Soccer, at nearly 2,900 miles in the air or a six-and-a-half-hour nonstop flight. Inter Miami faces a quick turnaround, hosting head coach Tata Martino’s former side Atlanta United at home on Wednesday.

Additionally, the playing surface of Whitecaps’ home field at BC Place is artificial turf, which many players worldwide refuse to play on due to a higher risk of injury or aggravation of an existing injury (though Messi has said he is willing to play on it).

For Lionel Messi, the game will be the seventh missed of the year, with previous absences owing to a leg injury and a few others due to rest. Messi took a knock in Miami’s game against Montreal on May 11. He stayed in the game and played the full 90 but missed the next match, midweek against Orlando City.

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(Photo: Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)

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