When it comes to rivalries for the the United States Men’s National Team, we already know who that is. Ask any American fan and the answer will be the same: Mexico. The close proximity between the two nations, their dominance of CONCACAF, the many Dos A Cero games, a series of heartbreaking USMNT losses, and the litany of brutal fouls Rafa Marquez has committed have ensured that matches between the two teams are always fierce. While nothing is quite like facing El Tri, who would be second on that rivalry list? Who else provides a similar fire on the field and in the stands? Here’s a look at three teams that could be considered the USMNT’s 2nd biggest rival.
The all-time series between the USMNT and Costa Rica is remarkably even, with the USMNT holding a 15-16-6 record. The teams have had several dramatic encounters, particularly in World Cup Qualifying.
A 1985, 1-0 home loss to Costa Rica was particularly gut-wrenching as it ended the USMNT’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1950. The USMNT dominated the match but could not find the winner required to advance to the final round of qualifying (which consisted of three teams at that time).
This series seems to have really heated up ever since the 2013 Denver World Cup Qualifying “Snow Clasico.” With several inches of snow on the ground, the USMNT defeated Costa Rica 1-0 and Los Ticos were furious.
The team unsuccessfully appealed the loss to FIFA and in the return match Costa Rica utilized ridiculous gamesmanship. According to Grant Wahl, Costa Rica refused to supply Jurgen Klinsmann’s side with game balls for training.
Gamesmanship central: Costa Ricans didn't provide game balls to US for training per usual protocol. (US using its own Nike balls instead.)— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) September 4, 2013
Additionally, every training site recommended by the Costa Rican FA refused to host the visitors. Perhaps these tactics had an effect as Los Ticos got their revenge, winning that match 3-1.
Gamesmanship 2: Costa Rica FA gave US contacts for training sites. All said no. US made own plans.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) September 4, 2013
In the 2016 Hex, a disastrous 2-0 loss at home and a 4-0 loss away proved to be some of the worst matches in the USMNT’s failed qualifying campaign. Jurgen Klinsmann was fired shortly after the 4-0 loss in Costa Rica. Check out this story we did a while back that offers a slightly more in-depth look at this rivalry.
I know what you’re thinking: USA-Canada might be a great women’s soccer rivalry, but this isn’t a men’s soccer rivalry. Hear me out. Historically, Canada is the USMNT’s oldest opponent, with the two teams first playing in 1885 in Newark, New Jersey (the match isn’t recognized by FIFA). The USMNT holds an all-time 14-8-12 record in this series and hasn’t lost since 1990. However, games between these two are typically close with the USMNT not having won by more than two goals since 2003.
The 2007 Gold Cup semifinal was one of the most memorable games in the series. Canadian fans are rightfully still angry about getting robbed in that match.Down 2-1 (but up a man thanks to a 88th minute Michael Bradley red card), Atiba Hutchinson scored a game-tying goal with seconds left. Shockingly, Hutchinson was ruled offside despite clearly receiving a pass from an USMNT defender.
Canada is a team on the rise that has a legitimate shot to end its World Cup qualification drought in 2022. Expect this series to become increasingly competitive in the coming years. The team has an exciting and young attacking core, which includes Cyle Larin, Alphonso Davies, and Barcelona B’s recently committed Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla (formerly of the Montreal Impact).
With player development in Canada improving greatly in the past ten years, in part due to the formation of Canadian MLS teams, the CANMNT looks poised to finally become a force in CONCACAF.
The USMNT vs. Ghana series lacks many of the traditional elements of a great soccer rivalry. There isn’t a long history between these two, with just four all-time meetings (they first met officially in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, while a 1983 Presidents Cup meeting seems to be unacknowledged by USSF).
Additionally, the two nations are not in close geographic proximity and games against Ghana haven’t been nearly as heated as those against teams like Costa Rica. However, the USMNT and Ghana seem to frequently face each other in important matches with the all-time series dead even at 2-2.
The first meeting between these two sides came in the 2006 World Cup. This was the last game of the group stage, with each team needing a victory to progress to the Round of 16. Ghana won 2-1, but the game was not without controversy. Many would say Claudio Reyna was fouled, as Haminu Draman dispossessed him and scored shortly after. Reyna was carried off the field injured and the USMNT’s luck only got worse as a controversial penalty was called against Oguchi Onyewu. The penalty was easily converted and turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Four years later, the USMNT met Ghana in the South Africa World Cup Round of 16. Once again the Americans would suffer heartbreak, losing 2-1 after extra time. The USMNT would finally get revenge in the 2014 World Cup, winning 2-1 in the opening game of Group G.
So, which team is it for you? Who’s the USMNT’s 2nd biggest rival?