World Cup: Second Teams

Second Teams: Mexico

Editor’s note: This is the latest piece in PSP’s World Cup series, in which PSP’s writers and a few honored guests make the case for which team you should root for in the World Cup after the United States. Read the full series here.

“Wait, what?” you say. “Mexico? Don’t be stupid.”

I get it, I do. Mexico is the U.S.’s most direct rival, the team with which it scraps, continuously, for regional dominance. Beating Mexico is the sweetest of victories, and losing to Mexico tastes like bile and bilge.

And yet, that is precisely why U.S. fans should root for Mexico to succeed in all games not directly involving the U.S. itself.

Rivalries require quality rivals

It’s all well and good to to say Mexico is the United States’ rival, but if that rival is soundly beaten by teams outside the region, what does that say about the U.S.? Kevin Kinkead touched on this in his Second Teams piece on Honduras: For CONCACAF to earn respect worldwide, its members need to excel in big tournaments. Mexico and the United States are CONCACAF’s standard-bearers.

The problem with playing in CONCACAF has long been that it didn’t necessarily prepare a team for the challenges of playing the Germanys and Portugals of the world. Success by Mexico and the rest of CONCACAF would indicate that that is no longer the case. The U.S. is better served by having a seriously competitive qualifying experience than by being a big fish in a small pond.

Mexico sets the footballing bar

More than that, Mexico has long led the way in playing attractive, attacking soccer. While Jurgen Klinsmann has brought in German-Americans to import some Euro-inspired offensive flair to the U.S.’s game, we really need only look south for inspiration. MLS teams are routinely beaten by Mexican clubs in the CONCACAF Champions League, and it wasn’t too long ago that the U.S. was Mexico’s rival in name only.

Mexico FAIn short, Mexico plays good ball. On a purely aesthetic level, Mexico at its best puts out a product that rivals many of the top teams in Europe and South America. If you want to watch good soccer, watch Mexico.

“Hey, that’s my brother! Only I can call him that!”

Rather than an enemy, we should think of Mexico more as a sibling with whom we fight viciously, because, more and more, Mexico is us. As time passes, U.S. soccer’s longstanding connections to Europe are being challenged by changing demographics, and to be a soccer fan in the U.S. increasingly means to be a fan of Mexican soccer. Recent television ratings numbers show that the most popular league in the U.S. is Liga MX, far surpassing the likes of the Premier League and MLS on networks that reach half as many viewers as NBC does.

Certainly in Philadelphia, the Mexican community is large and vibrant, and growing more so. One need only play some pick-up at 12th and Wharton to experience just how committed to the game Mexican Philadelphia is. Even if you yourself have no trace of Latin American ancestry, your soccer-loving friends and teammates do, or will.

Two of the Union’s most popular players in its short history, Michael and Gabriel Farfan, fit this profile perfectly. American-born Californians, Gabe and Mike left the Union to further their careers south of the border, both to up their games and explore their heritage. Both are Americans, through and through, but their connections to Mexico are powerful and emblematic of the U.S. teams of the future. Michael Orozco and Joe Corona may not have made this World Cup roster for the U.S., but it is only a matter of time before Mexican-Americans, like Corona, the Farfans, or Luis Gil, are representing the Stars and Stripes in larger numbers.

Rafa Marquez is still an a-hole

I’m not going to lie, I’ve rooted for Mexico to fail a lot more than I’ve ever rooted for them to succeed. Watching the Mexican team struggle through World Cup qualifying was deliciously satisfying. And that Mexico owes its World Cup place to Graham Zusi is just phenomenal. Not to mention how perfectly Rafa Marquez plays the matinee villain, the man you love to hate. Winning in Azteca was one of the best moments in U.S. soccer history.

I will root for the U.S. to crush Mexico every time they face each other, be it through skill, physicality, or hilarious Mexican own-goals entirely against the run of play.

But when Mexico takes the field in the World Cup, I’ll be rooting for Chicharito and all the rest to succeed.

And hey, if you need a North American team to root against, there’s always Canada.

7 Comments

  1. NEVER

  2. Speaking of the Farfans, they’d be nice additions to this team right about now, don’t ya think? Any chance Gabe wants to escape the hell that is Chivas and play LB for us again? Michael could slot in nicely on the wing…
    imjusyain’…

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    No offense, but I didn’t even read it. No way, no how.

  4. Do you know how insufferable Mexican fans will be if they get out of the group stage and we don’t for the next 4 tearless. No thanks.

  5. This is a harder sell than Ghana yesterday. Still don’t really have a second team I find myself rooting for. Probably will be one of the non-Argentina or Brazil South American sides. That would be wild.

  6. I love playing pick up with Mexicans. In Olney they were the guys playing in construction boots. They liked to play. It was low key.
    /
    I think Mexican fans need to stop throwing things at US players though, before I really feel free to root for their success- but there was a pair of mexican team sambas back in 2006 that i really wanted.

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