Why USA vs Mexico is No Ordinary International ‘Friendly’
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USA take on Mexico in an international friendly this weekend that is by no means a ‘friendly’ fixture.
The two nations go head-to-head during the international break, with both sides desperate to save face and claim victory.
There are plenty of international soccer rivalries that spark the imagination. England vs Scotland, Argentina vs Brazil and Netherlands vs Germany all have their unique historical and sporting contexts.
But USA vs Mexico is certainly one of the most fiercely-contested clashes in the world game.
Here, bookies.com looks at why the USA vs Mexico rivalry is so intense… and who the odds favor this weekend.
Political and Sporting Underdogs
Historically, the USA and Mexico have endured rocky sporting and political relationships. And it’s fair to say both claim the underdog tag when this fixture comes around.
The USA have excelled on their own sporting stage, championing domestic sports such as basketball, American football and baseball.
They have the World Series and the Super Bowl — both self-aggrandising titles for finals in sports played largely within North America. The USA’s major presence in global sports remains the Olympic Games, with soccer even now sometimes seen as a secondary sport within the country.
Mexico, on the other hand, have made soccer part of their culture. While they also have boxing and a strong baseball set-up, it is soccer that the country feeds off with a near-religious ferocity.
Therefore, sporting-wise, Mexico are the favourites when they clash with the USA.
They are the establishment, while the USA are the young upstarts who have only really taken to the sport in the past three decades.
Yet politically, these roles are reversed. The USA rules the roost on the global stage and has done for decades, much to the detriment at times of Mexico.
Economic and social factors have pulled millions of Mexicans to the USA over the years and there is a vibrant Hispanic population in the country.
Many of that population may be third or even fourth-generation Americans but still carry the flag of Mexico in this contest.
Why? Because it’s a way of supporting the underdog against the establishment — an establishment who, under the current Trump presidency, has arguably stoked greater animosity towards minorities than any in the past 30 years.
Do Trump policies inflame rivalry?
Trump has played hardball with Mexico ever since his election in 2016. The US president stared down his neighbours in a standoff over migration, threatening to increase tariffs on Mexican imports until his counterpart Lopez Obrador buckled and pledged to stem the migration flow.
His campaign promise of building a wall across the Mexico-USA border was highly controversial during his presidential campaign, while images of children being locked in cages at migrant camps have stoked further derision for his immigration policies.
Trump has made no secret of his aversion to those from other countries, recently telling four Congresswomen - who are all US citizens - that they “can leave”.
When it comes to soccer, rhetoric like this only inflames the Mexico fans’ desires to ‘get one over’ on the Americans, even if those fans live in the country. Trump, incidentally, saw his odds on being re-elected in 2020 improve to Evens (+100) a day after that comment.
It’s no secret that the political and social rivalries that bubble under the surface between the USA and Mexico often spill out onto the pitch.
Former USA defender Oguchi Onyewu claimed the feeling between the two teams is “disgust”.
The rivalry stems from the aforementioned notions of being underdogs. Both sets of players want to beat what they see as the establishment. In Mexico’s eyes it’s political. In the USA’s, it’s about proving sporting superiority — something the country enjoys excelling in.
Incidentally, Mexico are the +120 favourites to beat USA this weekend at the MetLife Stadium, with William Hill pricing the USA out at +230. For now at least, the USA remain the sporting underdogs.
Mexican Population Helped Grow MLS
One of the reasons this match is so huge in international soccer is the influence Mexico has had in regenerating the game in America.
Thousands of Mexicans - whether they be of Mexican heritage of first-generation migrants - watch Major League Soccer every week. They buy shirts, go to games and follow the league on TV — generating money for the league.
In many clubs, such as DC United, their Hispanic fanbase has catapulted them to being one of the most popular teams in the league.
When it comes to USA vs Mexico, therefore, those Latinos living in the United States can rightly claim their influence, attendance and enthusiasm has aided the growing standards of the MLS, and therefore the US Soccer team.
The USA has come a long way in the last three decades to compete at a regular international standard — and Mexicans cannot be overlooked as influencing that development.
About the Author
Joe Short, a contributor to Bookies.com, is a freelance journalist and former editor at the Daily Express, covering various sports, including soccer, darts and tennis.