I've been around the U.S.-Mexico soccer rivalry for more than a decade now, seen the passion (and, let's be honest, the sporting hatred) gather the force of a hurricane, and yet the buildup around Wednesday's World Cup qualifier (4 p.m. ET, Telemundo, Mun2) seems bigger than ever, almost like a soccer Super Bowl south of the border.
In every restaurant here, televisions blare nonstop talk of the Big Game. The Mexican media call me to ask which airport terminal the U.S. team is using. (I have no idea). Tickets for the sold-out Estadio Azteca (capacity: 105,000) are being scalped for more than $300. "Think about this," U.S. Soccer president
It's intoxicating stuff -- literally -- for thousands of the fans who'll turn the Azteca into a latter-day Thunderdome. How much is riding on this game? Let's just say that the slogan on the Spanish-language version of ESPN's
So, yeah, a big game.
Here are five things on my mind in the final hours before kickoff:
Donovan knows that when you talk like that, you have to back it up in the big games. He scored
"It's always a nice thought to think that you have a lineup and it works one day and now all you've got to do is run it out again and it works again," Bradley said. "But I think if you take a broader perspective, we've had a lot of games in the last six months -- games that have given us a real sense of our depth, of our talent. And the only things that now get factored in differently than the day that we're in Bloemfontein [for Spain] is: What have guys been doing lately?"
He's right in that current form should matter. But for me, current form demands starting the conquistadors from the Spain game.
"Is it something in the future that could happen? Sure," said USSF president Gulati, who's already overseen one U.S.-Mexico merger (his wife,
Of course, FIFA would have to approve such a merger. "I don't see that being approved today if somebody were requesting it," Gulati said, "but in 25 years? In 10 years?" That would be a heck of a league.
Torres told Gulati he was interested in playing for the U.S., but Torres was getting a ton of pressure to play for Mexico from Pachuca officials. (He even got calls from several current Mexican national-teamers.) Fearful of that pressure, U.S. Soccer didn't announce Torres's call-up at first for last year's World Cup qualifier against Cuba. "Until he stepped on the field, he was still eligible" to play for Mexico, Gulati said. Only when Torres entered the game in the second half did he become tied forever to the U.S. national team. Up in the stands, Gulati hugged Torres' agent after strategically outflanking the Mexicans for one of the region's most promising young players.
Lesson: The U.S.-Mexico rivalry doesn't just take place on the field.