Mexico vs. United States: Breaking Down the Rivalry

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 24, 2013

One of the most hotly contested international football rivalries will once again be reignited on Tuesday as the United States makes the trip down to the Mexican fortress of Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. 

For a long time, this rivalry was one-sided in the favor of Mexico, but over the last two decades, the American teams have gotten better, lighting a fire under the rivalry. 

Before 1990, El Tri were the dominant team in the fixture between the two CONCACAF rivals as they lost just twice and drew three times in 29 matches. 

Since then, the two teams have met on a more frequent basis and have seen numerous sets of players take to the pitches across both countries. 

The first big winning streak the Americans ever had over their rival to the south started in 1994 when they won 1-0 in a friendly at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

After the victory at the Rose Bowl, the Americans won two more matches against El Tri in Washington D.C. and in a Copa America quarterfinal in Uruguay. 

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During the buildup to the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, the Mexicans once again took control of the rivalry until a fateful day in Jeonju, South Korea in 2002. 

In the months before the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea, the two teams had split their World Cup qualifying matches, with Mexico winning at Azteca and the U.S. winning in Columbus, OH, a city that has hosted the U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier ever since. 

With the American soccer program on the rise, the Americans aimed to use the 2002 World Cup to catapult themselves to not only the continental stage, but the international stage as well. 

After a surprise run into the round of 16 by the Americans, they ran into their old foe and shocked the world by winning 2-0 and advancing to the quarterfinals of the competition. 

While the Americans were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Germany, they left the Far East with plenty of pride in themselves as a national team and plenty of confidence against their biggest rival. 

The American dominance of Mexico would go on for another seven years as El Tri were only able to defeat the United States once in eight matches. The lone win during that streak of matches came at Azteca during qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. 

After the Americans won at their own fortress, Crew Stadium in Columbus, on February 11, 2009 in World Cup qualifying, they found their North American rival hard to beat once again. 

Mexico has thoroughly dominated the United States in the last four years, including two blowout victories in the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals of 2009 and 2011.

However, the Americans were handed a small glimmer of hope back in August when Jurgen Klinsmann led the Americans into Azteca for the first time as manager of the national team. 

Against a weakened Mexico squad, a mix of veterans and youngsters went into Mexico City and stole a victory in the 88th minute, thanks to a late goal by Michael Orozco Fiscal. 

Many fans of El Tri do not count that as a significant win by the United States at Azteca because the match was just a friendly, and very few of their stars were even in the squad that night. 

That leads us to the next chapter that is about to be written in the volatile CONCACAF rivalry, beginning Tuesday night in Mexico City.

The United States has finally caught up to Mexico in the talent department, and they have more players applying their skills abroad than ever. With a squad that is full of experience, the Americans are looking to turn the rivalry on its head and come out of Azteca with a significant victory. 

With a valuable three points on the line and the whole Western Hemisphere watching the match on Tuesday, these two CONCACAF rivals will leave it all on the pitch in order to either gain or retain North American supremacy. 

Both of these teams hate each other, both of these teams have players who expect a volatile environment on Tuesday, and both sets of players expect to come out of the match with a victory. 

The United States-Mexico rivalry is as good as it gets in international football. Another spectacular, hate-driven chapter is about to be written in the history books on Tuesday night as both teams inch closer to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. 

Follow me on Twitter: @JTansey90