The U.S. and Mexico both scheduled two friendlies during this international window, and that might have been a bad idea compared to not playing at all.
The flawed FIFA rankings formula, which takes into account results, importance of matches, strength of opponent and strength of opponent's confederation, will actually punish the U.S. and Mexico even if they win all their friendlies during the October window.
That matters because both teams–and especially Mexico–have a shot of getting into the top seven in the FIFA rankings by next October—which would make them a seeded team for the 2018 World Cup draw. With the heavily valued Confederations Cup and Gold Cup on the docket for Mexico prior to the draw, the points necessary are there for the taking.
There's recent precedent for why this is a big deal. Switzerland limited its number of friendlies the year before the World Cup 2014 draw, snuck into the draw as a seeded team and advanced from an easier group (Ecuador, France, Honduras). Compare that to England, which would have taken Switzerland’s seed if it had just not played one friendly. Instead, England drew a more difficult group–Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica–and didn’t advance, going 0-1-2 in the opening stage.
Mexico, which is No. 15 in the current FIFA ranking, beat New Zealand (88) and will face Panama (62) in Tuesday's friendly.
Meanwhile, the USA (22) beat Cuba (139) and will face New Zealand in the final match prior to meeting Mexico to open CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying Hexagonal.
Here are a couple of more notes from around the soccer world, focused on the USA and Mexico: