Messi, Suarez, Busquets will not play in Vancouver Saturday. Here is the explanation.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Sergio Busquets did not travel to Vancouver and will skip the Inter Miami game Saturday against the Whitecaps because they need to rest, coach Tata Martino explained in an interview from Vancouver late Friday afternoon.

Martino stressed that the three players are not injured, that they trained all week, trained on their own Friday, and plan to train Saturday. They are not playing against Vancouver, he said, because the flight is six-plus hours, the longest in Major League Soccer, and Inter Miami has two more games over the next seven days. They have a game Wednesday at home against Atlanta and Saturday at home against St. Louis.

He said it would have been more manageable if the Vancouver game was paired with another West coast game, or if Miami had a full week to recover before the next game, but with a Wednesday game against a divisional rival, they opted out of the Vancouver trip.

Although they have known about the logistical challenge of this week since the schedule came out, Martino said it wasn’t until after Thursday’s training session that the players and coaching staff made the decision to keep the three stars home. The news of the players’ absence was first announced by the Whitecaps early Thursday night.

“The decision was solely because of the packed schedule this week,” Martino said. “Normally, when you make this type of trip, and I speak from my experience with Atlanta (United), you combine a few games that are in the same geographic region, so the trip won’t be as exhausting. But that was not the case this week, so we felt it was prudent that they not participate in this game.”

Martino also mentioned that Busquets has played the most minutes of anyone on the team, and that he needed to take a break.

Messi, who turns 37 in a few weeks, also has Copa America coming up with the Argentina national team in June, and Suarez, 37, may get called up by Uruguay, as well. Martino dismissed speculation that the three Miami stars were skipping the game because it is on artificial turf, pointing out that all three played on turf against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium last month.

The coach said he understands the frustration of the sellout crowd of 55,000 that bought tickets expecting to see Messi and his high-profile teammates at BC Place. The Whitecaps had planned the biggest street party in the team’s history in the lead up to the 10:30 p.m. kickoff and angry fans voiced their displeasure about Messi’s absence on social media.

“I understand the fans’ desire to see these players and sometimes as a coaching staff we have to make difficult decisions,” Martino said. “Those decisions sometimes upset the fans, but we have to focus on our team and our players.”

Asked whether he felt Inter Miami has an obligation to announce Messi’s absences earlier due to the impact he has on ticket sales, Martino replied: “We understand the excitement these players generate in MLS and road venues, but where else in the world does a team have to announce its players’ absences because it will hurt business? This is a very unique situation. We can’t announce weeks in advance because things change, injuries happen. I think it is the opponents’ responsibility to have a Plan B in case someone like Leo can’t play.”

Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster said: “Unfortunately, we have no control over who plays for our opponent. We know that there will also be a lot of disappointed fans. We remain committed to making this a special experience for everyone.” All stadium food and beverage for the match will be 50 percent off and youth 18 and under will be provided free kids meal combos.

The Whitecaps are winless over their past five games, while Miami has gone nine consecutive games without a loss and sits atop the Eastern Conference and in first place in the Supporters Shield race with 31 points from nine wins, two losses and four ties.

A big reason for Miami’s success is the dynamic duo of Messi and Suarez. Between them they have 21 goals and 17 assists over a span of 14 games. Messi has 10 goals and 12 assists over 10 games and Suarez has 11 goals and five assists over 14 appearances.

Messi and Suarez will likely spend at least some of the Memorial Day weekend at Chase Stadium watching their sons play with the Inter Miami Academy U12 team in the inaugural Youth International Cup, a tournament drawing U9 to U19 girls and boys teams from all over the United States and some from abroad. The Inter Miami U12s were scheduled to play Orlando City U12 on Friday night.