For the United States and Mexico men’s national soccer teams, the road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar passes through Cincinnati and TQL Stadium.
Officials on Wednesday announced the U.S.-Mexico 2022 World Cup qualifier will be staged and hosted by U.S. Soccer at TQL Stadium on Nov. 12, bringing the bitter, decades-old U.S.-Mexico men’s soccer rivalry to West End and Downtown Cincinnati.
“We’ve done it,” FC Cincinnati Chief Executive Officer and Controlling Owner Carl Lindner III told the assembled media and other visitors for the Wednesday announcement.
“One of the most significant soccer matches in the world will be played right here in TQL Stadium. I know our great city and county and region will roll out the welcome mat for our national and international visitors, and media, to join in the exciting spirit of this match in November. … Awesome news, isn’t it?”
The game marks the third U.S. Soccer match staged in Cincinnati during the FC Cincinnati era, with the U.S. women’s team staging and winning a friendly against New Zealand in September 2017.
In June 2019, the U.S. men played a friendly at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium and lost to Venezuela.
The U.S-Mexico match is about as big as at gets in North and Central America, and is part of the round-robin style qualifying process for the 2022 World Cup.
Eight nations will compete in what some are calling an “octagonal” World Cup qualifying process for FIFA’s “Concacaf” region, which comprises the soccer federations from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Other qualifying matches will be contested against Canada, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica and Jamaica.
World Cup: Columbus to host U.S. men’s national team World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica
But the U.S-Mexico rivalry is unlike the region’s other soccer feuds.
“It’s huge. It’s one of the biggest rivalries in the world of football,” said DaMarcus Beasley, an Indiana native and American national team veteran of four World Cups during a decorated professional career.
“I was honored and blessed to play in a lot of (U.S.-Mexico games), home and away. So, I know the significance of that game. Every player wants to play in that game, whether it’s in Azteca (Stadium) or whether it’s in the United States, every player wants to play in that game. …
“It’s somewhat indescribable, because once you’re in it, you feel the buzz. You feel buzz as soon as you come into the city and at the hotels, the media support around that game, it’s something that you don’t need motivation to play that game.”
The game is the marquee rivalry in this part of the world, attracts significant media attention and the Americans have typically prevailed against Mexico, nicknamed “El Tri,” on U.S. soil.
USA head coach Gregg Berhalter against Panama during an international friendly soccer match at State Farm Stadium. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Since 2001, the rivalry’s World Cup qualifiers on American shores have played out in Columbus, where historic Crew Stadium served as a fortress for the Americans.
From 2001 to 2013, the U.S. hosted the Mexico World Cup qualifier at Crew Stadium four times and won each game by 2-0 scorelines, which birthed the “Dos a Cero” moniker.
“Dos a Cero” (it translates to “2-0,” or “two to zero”) became a phrase that was synonymous with the Americans’ dominance over Mexico in World Cup qualifying. It also extends to a 2-0 U.S. win against Mexico in the biggest game in the history of the rivalry, a 2002 FIFA World Cup round-of-16 match in Jeonju, South Korea, that saw the Americans advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
It wasn’t until the 2018 Russia World Cup cycle, and a qualifier held in Columbus in November 2016, when Mexico finally beat the Americans at the now-former home of the Crew MLS franchise.
Columbus might be losing the Mexico game for now, but it will still host another high-profile qualifier in October against Costa Rica, the Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.
Asked during an exclusive Enquirer interview about the U.S.-Mexico match not being staged in Columbus, Beasley said, “I wouldn’t say I’m sad. I don’t think it’s a negative that the game is still in Ohio but in a different venue.
“I keep saying it, but it really shows the growth of soccer in this country,” Beasley said. “The fact that this is a new stadium, somewhat a new team, as U.S. Soccer, you want to play in stadiums that are pro-U.S. – especially home games – that’s what we always wanted and we’ve only gotten that, really, in Columbus throughout my years of playing, so I don’t think I would say that I’m sad that it’s not in Columbus.
“I have great memories from up there. … That’s always gonna be a special place to play a qualifier or play a game regardless, but I’m happy to see it stay in Ohio, stay in the Midwest and give us the advantage to win a football match.”
Mexico leads the all-time series against the U.S., and has had similar success in World Cup qualifying against the Americans at Estadio Azteca, its high-altitude home stadium in Mexico City. The Americans have notched just one friendly victory in that venue.
In the modern era of the rivalry, though, the Americans have shown well against their biggest rival. Since 2000, the U.S. boasts a 15-9-6 record against Mexico.
At the moment, the rivalry is already simmering again after manager Gregg Berhalter’s Americans topped Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League final in June.
The nations could meet again soon with another trophy at stake, too. Both teams on Sunday advanced to the semifinals of the ongoing Concacaf Gold Cup.
With scheduled semifinal matches Thursday against Qatar and Canada, respectively, the U.S. and Mexico could meet Sunday in the Gold Cup final at the 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Ticket information for November’s World Cup qualifier is expected to be released in the near future, but no details on the TQL Stadium match were available Wednesday.