It's the equivalent of Tom giving a hand to Jerry or the Hatfields helping out the McCoys. Simply put, it just doesn't seem right for United States soccer supporters to root for the Mexican national team. However, it's the sensible thing to do.
On November 20th, El Tri kick off a two-legged playoff with New Zealand for a spot at next summer's World Cup. It's fair to say at least a few American fans will be die hard Kiwis for at least 180 minutes this month.
Each World Cup cycle, the bad blood between the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle boils a little hotter for a number of reasons. There's the geographic proximity, the socio-economic differences, the struggle for either to really dominate the region and the intimidating growth of the sport in America, to name a few.
Although it may seem like treason and it may go against everything that your heart tells you as a fan, the USMNT needs the Mexican national team in the World Cup, and vice versa.
Growth of CONCACAF
In footballing terms, the strength of CONCACAF overall has a significant impact on the fortunes of the U.S. national team. Certainly, improved competition within the confederation is a positive sign, which is something we saw in the most recent Hex. The tournament saw record lows for goals scored as well as multi-goal wins, a clear indication that the talent gap is shrinking.
Better on-field battles with the likes of Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and the rest of CONCACAF only gives the U.S. more preparation for those intense battles with European or South American (or Ghana) powerhouses that may come in the World Cup. However, it's always easier to just avoid those teams if you can. That's why Mexico's success is important for the Stars and Stripes.
In the past, seeding to determine which pots countries were placed in to determine the respective groups at the finals was determined by a complex formula. Previous World Cup performances factored in, as did the overall quality of a country's member confederation. The latter is why a strong Mexican squad could be beneficial for Team USA at future tournaments.
Admittedly, this year's seeding is being determined solely by the controversial FIFA Rankings, something that many officials (including Jurgen Klinnsmann) have spoken out against. Knowing FIFA, it's likely that consistency will not be part of its plans. It would hardly be surprising if the older seeding model makes a return for 2018 World Cup.
Economic impactModern football is as much a business as it is a sport. Just as success can positively impact the bottom line for clubs, players, and countries, non-sporting bodies also rely heavily on the presence of their regional members at FIFA's quadrennial showcase.
A recent report from Reuters cited a financial expert's prediction that highlighted just how much American and Mexican companies could lose if Mexico misses out on the World Cup: $650 million. Here's an excerpt from the report:
"The possibility of not qualifying for the Brazil tournament deeply worries Mexico's football association (FMF) and media, mainly television networks in Mexico and the United States which have broadcasting rights, and companies who sponsor the national team and businesses who see a rise in sales throughout the year when the World Cup is held."
Although the brunt of this impact is likely to be felt by Mexican enterprises, American firms will certainly be effected, many of which would expose millions of young American kids to the passion of the Mexican game through advertisements and televised games.
Displaying how vibrant the fandom surrounding the game and the local rivalry is one of the best ways to get younger generations attached to the sport. Certainly, exposure to the USMNT will prove beneficial in this regard, but would soccer advocates in the States root against increased exposure?
It may be hard to do, it may hurt a bit and it may make you feel like Benedict Arnold, but hoping Mexico makes it to Brazil is the right thing to do for American fans.