Mexico and the United States are rivals on the soccer field, but increasingly the rivalry is put aside when it comes to off-the-pitch matters.
The latest development is the countries' bid, along with the United States' northern neighbor Canada, to jointly host the World Cup in 2026. With CONCACAF seeming the likely destination for the competition after Russia hosts in 2018 and the tournament heads to the Middle East four years later (and with a Uruguay-Argentina joint bid to host the 100th anniversary the same place the first tournament took place also likely to come for the 2030 edition), all three nations had intimated they wanted to host.
Instead, we once again see the rivals on the field uniting in honor of winning the almighty dollar. A World Cup in the region could be lucrative for all three FAs involved, and with the two bigger players agreeing to smile and grin rather than run the risk of letting it go to votes between them and seeing how it falls, it makes sure both get a piece of the pie.
There's no doubt either of these countries could host a World Cup on their own. The United States has the facilities and the fans accustomed to shelling out to see international football stars, something that started with the 1994 World Cup's record crowds and was still on display as recently as last year at the Copa America Centenario. And while Mexico's infrastructure doesn't match the NFL-aided (generally taxpayer-subsidized) palaces the U.S. boasts, new stadiums in Monterrey and Guadalajara plus remodeling jobs at the Estadio Azteca and continuing expansion on the Estadio Caliente in Tijuana give Mexico more than enough quality buildings as well.
But with World Cups only coming every four years and not returnng to the same region any time soon, U.S. Soccer and the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol are in the familiar position of striking a compromise. FMF president Decio de Maria said in October that whether or not it came in a joint bid, his federation would be bidding to host the showpiece tournament.
Yet Monday's announcement that Mexico will host just 10 matches in the competition and no matches from the quarterfinals on so just how much De Maria was willing to give to make something work out. This is a tournament that will be hosted in the United Sates, with Mexico and Canada tossed in at the start.
Compromise is nothing new for these two groups. While not always welcoming to traveling supporters for qualifiers, the federations are otherwise open to finding plenty of common ground. Much of the strength of tournament and friendly tours taking place in the U.S. comes from the spending power of Mexican-Americans who fill stadiums to see El Tri.
And while Mexico is looking to host the world's most important tournament, somewhat absurdly it has never made a serious push to host the region's most important tournament. The Gold Cup stays put in the United States every two years, providing maximum revenue despite the lack of a traditional continental tournament that changes sites.
There's also the potential for the federation's top leagues, both of which work more closely with the federations than many leagues around the world, to work even more closely together. MLS and Liga MX are kicking around the idea of a tournament between their top teams as a bonus to or replacement for the CONCACAF Champions League.
Ultimately, while the fans may be frustrated about the partnership with a rival that is indeed hated in a sporting context, those going into the meetings know there's far too much money to be made for their organizations to let that get in the way. The United States and Mexico may seem like strange bedfellows, but they're eager enough to hop under the sheets every couple of summers to make sure both are reaping plenty of financial gain.