The international soccer calender continues to get more crowded, but Mexico fans can still expect a steady diet of friendly matches in the United States, officials said Wednesday.
El Tri have played a minimum of five friendly matches in the United States for years as part of a partnership with Soccer United Marketing. The tour will continue in 2019, with a match guaranteed to take place at AT&T Stadium in North Texas in each of the next four years.
Even with this deal in place, SUM Vice President of Property & Commercial Development Camilo Durana said the partnership with the Mexico national team remains in place and fans should expect an additional four matches during 2019.
"That doesn’t change. We are committed to continuing the tour as we’ve organized it, with the same quality, the same experience the fans have come to expect," Durana told Goal. "What this does is just assures us that we’ll be in Dallas the next four years. It helps us build programming around the games. What we believe is this is an unbelievable team, but ultimately the experience, what fans feel, is different, so we want to make sure we start building more around it and make sure we hit those cultural touchpoints for fans."
Mexico's 2019 calendar is filling up quickly, with a June friendly taking place at AT&T Stadium serving as a preparation match for that month's Gold Cup. El Tri also will play two friendly matches in the March window, though those games may take place outside the U.S. El Tri also will begin Concacaf Nations League play in the fall of 2019, with Mexico and the other five teams from last cycle's final round of World Cup qualification joining in with the rest of the region's members.
Even with more and more matches on the schedule, Gilberto Hernandez, General Secretary of the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol, said the relationship with SUM will continue to be something the federation values.
"The relationship with SUM is better than ever. This agreement we’re announcing today is proof of that, so the truth is that things are going really, really well with them," Hernandez said. "There are always more competitions and you have to choose, but what I can tell you is that the calendar we’ve agreed upon today doesn’t affect any of the other commitments the national team has. There’s nothing to worry about."
Even so, the Nations League will add another wrinkle both into Mexico's schedule and how SUM manages to find dates for friendly matches. Currently, Nations League qualifiers are taking up one match each FIFA window, allowing teams to play a friendly in addition to the Nations League game. While there has been some speculation Mexico and other top teams would continue to operate apart from the nascent competition, plans remain unchanged for now.
"Everybody" will be involved, Manolo Zubiria, the Chief Football Officer for Concacaf told Goal earlier this month. "The other six not involved right now, the teams from the Hexagonal who didn’t take part in the qualifying round, those teams will be in as of the September window. It’s a big calendar and it’s nice to have the qualifying, the Gold Cup and then go right into Nations League."
While that could create a few organizational or logistical headaches, SUM is confident they'll be able to navigate the challenges and continue to maintain the Mexico tour.
"It just means we have to work a little bit harder in terms of the dates that are available for the games and how we schedule them," Durana said. "Fortunately, we have a wonderful relationship with Concacaf as well, so as we get the calendars over the next four years and as they actually brought to life the Nations League, we worked very closely to identify the windows that made sense to continue to do what we do which is important to us and important to the federation. It’s been very well thought-out. We have no concerns about being able to maintain the pace, the quality and the experience we’ve been able to build over the 16 years."