East Rutherford, NJ - The Mexican National Team, El Tri, continues to demonstrate that they are “America’s Soccer Team” as the New Meadowlands housed their sea of green fans. For the second consecutive year, El Tri has sold out a new football stadium. Last year, it was at the new Cowboy Stadium where they triumphed over Haiti 4-0 in front of 82,252 fans.
And this year 77,507 fans created a sea of green as they waved their Mexican flags in the New Meadowlands as they watched El Tri draw Ecuador 0-0. Although the game was the main focus, the real story was when Justino Compean, president of the Mexican Football Federation, announced that Mexico supports the United States for its 2018 World Cup bid.
Also present was Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, who thanked Compean for his support. During the press conference, both presidents expressed confidence that the United States will win the bid. Both agreed that with the recent stadiums and soccer-specific stadiums recently built, the United States presented the strongest chance of winning a World Cup bid.
So, why does the United States Soccer Federation need the Mexican Football Federation's support? The answer is simple and clear. Despite the success of the 1994 World Cup where fans attended in record numbers, American-born soccer fans have yet to fully embrace the U.S. National Team, Major League Soccer, and the Women’s Professional Soccer league.
With the number of soccer-specific stadiums that have opened in last 10 years, most American-born soccer fans could care less. In addition, the Mexican National Team has more fans who will attend friendly matches in record numbers than the U.S. National Team. A Mexican friendly guarantees high TV ratings in both the United States and in Mexico.
Despite the role Sunil Gulati has played in developing the U.S. National team and MLS, he has failed to make it the premier sport to root for and watch in this country.
From an economics stand point, when was the last time the United States National Team drew the number of fans like the Mexican National Team? If a majority of American soccer fans cared about the U.S. National Team, then they would have been playing in Cowboy Stadium and the New Meadowlands instead of El Tri.
Saying that Americans are more into the NBA, NFL, and MLB is an out-dated excuse because from a numbers perspectives, their stadiums (with the exception of the NBA) have more seats and better TV contracts.
Sadly the definition of an American soccer fan has been misinterpreted. What makes American soccer fans unique is that majority of American-born fans are taught to root for their parents' National Teams and country’s leagues. At a young age, a majority of American-born soccer fans are already rooting for Brazil, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Manchester United, Barcelona, Chivas, and Real Madrid (to name a few) before they consider following the United States National Team and MLS.
In layman terms, American soccer is not necessarily about rooting for the U.S. National Team or MLS. American Soccer is about rooting for the team that identifies with one's culture and heritage. Having this understanding, I asked the one question to Sunil Gulati that I know my readers would expect of me to ask.
My question was: “With the Immigration law recently passed in Arizona and the uproar it’s created nationally, has the USSF removed Arizona as one their sites in their World Cup Bid?”
Sunil’s reply was: “No, it’s a long way between now and 2018 and 2022. At this point it’s premature to make decisions given the fact the law is being challenged in a number of ways. Obviously it is a very difficult issue for the governor and legislators. I believe everyone involved will try to find balance between the law and humanity. They are probably off the mark in this particular legislation and hopefully everyone will find a better balance.”
Mexican Football Federation president, Justino Compean, added that even though he supports the United States winning a World Cup bid and has been to the University of Phoenix, he will have no reservation about dropping Arizona from El Tri’s future U.S. tours. He also pointed out that along with the friendly in New Jersey, El Tri’s final tour game in Chicago is already sold out, while Houston’s is 80 percent sold.
“We can’t give enough solidarity to the people who live in Arizona and work to earn money to send back to Mexico,” he said.
In the end, it’s important for U.S. Soccer to develop and grow in the manner it has.
However, the USSF has to understand and ultimately accept that American soccer is based on the diversity of immigrants and their children born in the United States—not on the vision of the USSF. As of right now, America’s soccer team in the United States is not the Red, White, and Blue…it’s the Green, White, and Red.
If you wish to see photos of the Mexico-Ecuador match please go to Facebook and look for the fan page: Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool!!!!!!!!!!
Cesar Diaz is the Soccer Editor for Latino Sports. Please send Cesar your questions and concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.