The United States Men’s National Team’s rivalry with the Mexican Men’s National Team is one of the fiercest and greatest international rivalries on Earth. Two teams within a confederation have, for decades, fought for the right to hold the title of Kings of Concacaf. And for the most part, the two teams have done that without interruption from any other teams within the region.
USA vs. Mexico is the biggest soccer match on this continent. Many call it the Super Bowl of North American soccer. And that rivalry once again takes center stage Friday night in Cincinnati when the USMNT and Mexico face each other in World Cup qualifying.
So many matches in the history of this rivalry have had epic moments, big goals, and trophies that were won. It permeates throughout the fabric of soccer in both countries, from the national teams to the federations, from the domestic leagues to the fanbases. Players hate each other, federations want to outdo each other, and fanbases strive for their teams to win over the other at all costs so they can hold the bragging rights and claim their team as the true kings of the continent.
But, the hatred that you see on the field isn’t born out of anything malicious. Rather, it’s formed from something that’s more difficult to attain: respect.
Back in 2015, Tim Howard broke down the rivalry more aptly than just about anyone has in quite a while:
“I have always thought that your fate and reputation and your legend will ultimately be decided as a U.S. player by how you perform against Mexico,” Howard said. “Those will be the games you remember and cherish. We talk about the hatred, that is bred out of respect. They fear us and vice versa, because we have a mutual respect.”
That mutual respect is why the games are intense, fierce, and full of passion on both sides. Ahead of the match on Friday, Tim Howard, who’s currently a Premier League analyst for NBC Sports, joined Julie Stewart-Binks for an interview on the upcoming episode of her show, Drinks with Binks, which streams on Saturday nights on Fubo Sports Network at 5:00pm and 5:30pm on both coasts (Fubo TV free trial). He reiterated that while he hates the Mexican players and the team and the federation, that hate is there because of the respect he has for them.
That respect must remain for the rivalry to continue to be great. On Friday night, yet another chapter will be written in the book of USA vs. Mexico. While there will certainly be gamesmanship on both sides, both by players and coaches, and there will certainly be banter in the stands, the mutual respect must be the constant. The players want to win, the fans want to win, and it will seem that every soccer fan in North America will pick a side. But listen to the words of Tim Howard: the hatred is bred out of respect. Let’s keep respect at the center of this match as we cheer on the USMNT.