When sports fans think of rivalries in the United States, Red Sox-Yankees, North Carolina-Duke, Lakers-Celtics and Ohio State-Michigan come to mind.
Soccer is often left out, but the United States Men’s National Team versus the Mexico national football team is quite possibly the biggest athletic rivalry in North America. Soccer fans are crazy about their teams, showing support by singing endlessly, lighting flares and throwing streamers on the pitch.
The drama continues in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. Before Tuesday night, the U.S. men’s national team stood in second place with 13 points, while Mexico was in fourth place with eight points. The U.S. team could not afford two consecutive losses and risk dropping to third place. Likewise, Mexico needed a win to help their 2014 World Cup chances.
Columbus was the perfect place for the U.S. to bounce back and take on Mexico in what was arguably the biggest World Cup qualifying match to date.
After losing away to Costa Rica Friday night, it was clear the U.S. was glad to be home — as it is undefeated all-time in Columbus against Mexico, posting a 7-0-3 record. The American supporters have always provided an amazing atmosphere at Crew Stadium.
The tradition began in 2001, when the U.S. first played Mexico at Crew Stadium and won 2-0. The pro-American crowd helped create a psychological advantage, and they continued to schedule the biggest game in Columbus to very positive results. Since then, the U.S. has won “dos a cero” every time.
The fans played a key role in the U.S. victory Tuesday night. It seemed like all 24,584 fans stood throughout, raising noise levels off the charts. Chants of “We are going to Brazil” and “Dos a Cero” echoed throughout the stadium.
Columbus might officially be the center of soccer in America.
Fans from around the nation provided strong support beginning weeks before the game and kept it up through the final whistle.
It all began with U.S. soccer’s newest social media campaign, where supporters were able to send messages using the #FanWall that would be displayed in the Columbus Crew’s tunnel. The wall was the last thing the players saw before entering the field.
Prior to the game, former player and current brand ambassador for the Crew, Frankie Hejduk, said the wall is a motivational tool.
“It motivates you. I’m all for any type of motivation that gives you some sort of advantage,” Hejduk said. “That wall is definitely one of those things that do it for the players.”
U.S. manager Jürgen Klinsmann took to social media himself, tweeting from @J_Klinsmann Sept. 8, “awesome sayings on the #FanWall. Thank you so much!”
It’s awesome avid soccer fans in the U.S. were able to interact with the players this way. Fans showed support through messages like “We win together. We lose together. We stand together.” Others included “11 on the field. 27k in the stands. Millions around the country. On this field, on this night, we all believe in you.” These words had to have been massive for the team’s confidence. It gives the players inspiration knowing how much fans appreciate them.
Columbus is a football town in more than one way. The city might not hate Mexico as much as it hates Michigan, but the support for their team is just as strong.
Columbus, take a bow. You’ve done it again on the biggest stage.
Despite rumors of moving the game elsewhere, Columbus should plan on witnessing plenty more U.S. vs. Mexico matchups. It was a game soccer fans will remember for a lifetime.