VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Lionel Messi will not play in Inter Miami's match in Vancouver against the Whitecaps on Saturday, a move coach Gerardo Martino said was based on the team's crowded upcoming schedule.

Messi and teammates Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets will not play for Major League Soccer-leading Miami (9-2-4) in the match that was expected to draw more than 50,000. Miami has two home games scheduled next week.

''We thought it was the most prudent for them not to play this match," Martino said Friday. "They have been training, but they will not be available for the game.

''We obviously understand the frustration of the people wanting to watch these players play. We as coaches sometimes have to make these very difficult football decisions. But we always have to keep in mind the players' health first.''

Messi has missed other MLS games, in in Orlando, New York and Washington. The 36-year-old Argentine star has 10 goals in 10 MLS games this season and leads the league in assists with 12.

Martino noted that the artificial turf at B.C. Place did not play a role in the decision. Not using the players was about saving them from grueling travel and a three-hour time change, he said.

After the game against Vancouver, which is seventh in the Western Conference, Miami hosts Atlanta on Wednesday and St. Louis next Saturday.

In the past, MLS has opted not to schedule mid-week games for teams that have traveled long distances, or scheduled another road game nearby, Martino added.

''But it's not a complaint,'' he said. ''We understand in our specific case that the players that we're talking about are very important for everyone. But the health of these players is the priority.''

MLS issued a statement Friday saying it will ''continue to review measures regarding how clubs report player availability.''

''Major League Soccer acknowledges fan disappointment when marquee players are unavailable for matches,'' the statement said. ''Each MLS club makes its own personnel and competitive decisions based on what they believe is in the best interests of the club and each player.''

Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini said he is disappointed, too.

''It's a bummer like for everyone else,'' Sartini said. ''You would love also the opportunity to have the possibility to play against a lot of very strong and quality players and arguably probably the best player in the last 20 or 30 years. But it is what it is. The main focus is playing well.''


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