Top Stories

USA-Mexico qualifier heading West?

OnyewuMarquez (ISI PHotos) 

                                                                                   Photo by

Just when you thought the tradition of the USA home World Cup qualifier against Mexico being played in Columbus, Ohio would be upheld this year, now comes word from ESPN Deportes' John Sutcliffe that the Feb. USA-Mexico qualifier on Feb. 11 will be played either in Salt Lake City or Seattle. Sutcliffe states that a decision will be made by Dec. 15.

If true, the move is certainly an interesting one. There can be no complaints about the possibility of having the match at Rio Tinto Stadium, which is a beautiful building and should offer up the same kind of frigid conditions that made Columbus such a hit back in 2001. Seattle would also be an intriguing venue. Qwest Field would be prepped for soccer since the expansion Seattle Sounders would be starting MLS play a month later. Cold weather, not a large concentration of Mexicans in the area and nice stadiums. It seems both cities meet all three criteria for hosting this crucial qualifier.

I still haven't gotten independent confirmation of this being the case (so don't book or cancel any flights just yet), but for now, it is certainly worth discussion. What do you think of this development? Saddened that it won't be in Columbus?Think the ugly staging erected at Crew Stadium ultimately hurt the venue's chances of hosting? Do you think Mexico fans will find their way to Rio Tinto Stadium in great numbers?

(And for the folks thinking it, the above photo was already a You Write the Caption.)

Share your thoughts below.


  1. You know this could be a plan by USSF to throw off the Mexican fans and media, last time there were a lot of Mexican fans in the stand in C-bus, a fact the the Mexican media talked more about than the game they lost. So is not like Columbus is a sure thing.

    Either way, Mexico hasn’t beaten us in a home WCQ since 1972, they have beaten us at home since the 2000 or the late 90’s, if they can’t beat us in Texas or Arizona when we don’t play with the full team what chance do they have when we bring everyone? Especially now when we’re playing so well, and they haven’t, when we’re benefiting from a large talent pool that includes veterans and newcomers, and they’ll be without a few starters and their youngsters haven’t delivered.

  2. The last time I looked into it.. the same Dollars lining the pockets of east coast fans are now being accepted at all Seattle establishments.

    When fans show up here to see USA vs MEXICO there will be no gridlines on the field, all seats will be sold out, and the message board naysayers will be impressed by Qwest Stadiums VOLUME.

  3. you really cant go wrong with either choice, but i am leaning towards Seattle. the pacific north west deserves a WCQ, last time we were there was when Tab Ramos scored vs CR to get us in the 98 WC (that portland crowd was rocking)

  4. Do you actually think you’d get 65K US soccer fans to a game in Seattle? A more realistic expectation would be 25K US soccer fans and 40K Mexican fans. A more centrally-located venue makes more sense, so more US soccer supporters can go. And don’t accuse me of being from Columbus; I live nowhere near Ohio.

  5. Last year, Mexico vs. China at Qwest Field was sold out. Originally they were only going to sell the bottom bowl, but that sold out quickly, and the place was packed. Eastern Washington has a much bigger Mexican population than Western Washington, and judging from the demographics at that game, they traveled very well.

    I’d say at least 75% in attendance were in Mexico gear, going absolutely nuts. Awesome atmosphere. That was for a friendly, against China. Add some meaning plus the US team, and I guarantee a sellout. I’ll certainly be there if it’s in Seattle.

  6. Id first like to say thanks to Columbus and their US fans for supporting and giving the US the adnavtage for all those times we held it there but i think its time for USSF to move on to find a bigger “Columbus” which is a compliment. Sure Columbus gave us a big advantage but the 20k capacity is very unappealing since we KNOW we can easily surpass that nowadays. Given that i would rule out Rio Tinto and if i had to choose between Seattle and Chicago’s Soldier Field, it would be Soldier field given the harsh winter weather. I dont know why Soldier field is not being looked as a alternative though…

  7. Mario in SJ –

    “RSL does not have a large season ticket base even though with time and effort the FO could get a good showing of US fans. Problem is once tix go on sale to the general public the large pro Mexican fans would buy up too many of them.”

    That is a very poor argument for not bringing a game to SLC and leaving it in Columbus. RSL has 1400+ more season ticket holders than Columbus (2008 #s were RSL – 4,632 vs. Columbus – 3,227). Before you fire back with the “Columbus has proven they can do it” argument, remember that SLC hosted a WCQ between the US and Costa Rica that drew a very, very pro-US 40,000+ crowd. In fact the postgame press conference saw both Bruce Arena (“It was fantastic. I’ve never been in a more comfortable setting as the manager of the U.S. team,”), Landon Donovan (“They were passionate, they were loud… I really hope we come back here”) and just about every other US player praise the support they received!

  8. i’m definately getting tickets to this if it is held in Seattle!!!

    BTW – IT WILL BE PLAYED ON GRASS if they play in Seattle!!! Idiots!!!

  9. As a long MNT fan I am really tired of watching or being at games where US fans are in the minority. We have got to fix this problem. One way to do it is to have the game at an MLS stadium where there is an existing fan base who would more than likely be US fans.

    We know the Columbus fans would fill the stadium, they have already proven that.

    RSL does not have a large season ticket base even though with time and effort the FO could get a good showing of US fans. Problem is once tix go on sale to the general public the large pro Mexican fans would buy up too many of them.

    Seattle on the other hand has a great season ticket base. However because of the size of Qwest Field they would need to sell 3 tix to each season ticket holder. I doubt if enough could be sold that way to guarantee at least an 80% US fan base.

    The answer therefore remains Columbus. It must stay in Columbus for all US fans!!!

  10. 1) I believe that the USSF controls the crowd in a smaller stadium by a) USSF member pre-sale and b)MLS season ticket holders pre-sale. In a smaller venue that will guarantee a majority pro US crowd, while in a larger stadium it won’t due to absolute numbers.

    2)the Mexican population argument is bogus. Columbus is a four + hour drive from Chicago, with over one million Mexicans. Plus, the Mexican fans turn out no matter where it is.

    3) there is a history of rewarding MLS cities for building SSS’s with qualifiers and MLS Cups. SLC deserves both for the beautiful stadium and the fantastic support they provide for their team.


  11. Playing Mexico in ANY large stadium anywhere in the US will guarantee a large number of Mexican fans. There are probably more fans willing to travel to see El Tri in the US than there are fans willing to travel to see the US Men’s National Team.

    So the only way to guarantee a pro-US crowd is to have it in a smaller stadium where the makeup of the crowd can be controlled by offering the tix to proven US supporters first. There may be about 20,000 such fans willing to travel to a qualifier in Columbus – whether or not that many would travel to Salt Lake is an open question.

    Any arguments about drawing a “pro-US crowd” in the US need to factor in the size of our opponents likely available fanbase. Mexicans will show up in big numbers anywhere IF they can get tickets. If this game is played in a stadium that seats much more than 20K the proportion of Mexican fans will grow along with the size of the stadium.

    It’s much easier to have a “pro-US” crowd if you’re opponent is small in population. Wikipedia lists the following populations for our opponents in the Hex.

    Mexico – 106.6 million

    Costa Rica – 4.1 million

    El Salvador – 7.1 million

    Honduras – 7.5 million

    T & T – 1.3 million

    You can pretty much expect the size of crowds supporting the other team to reflect the size of their population. Number of immigrants in the US (lots of Salvadoreans for instance) or how well a team is doing in its qualifying campaign are the other factors.

    The main thing is that the enthusiasm of the local US fan base will almost NEVER be the most important factor in whether a crowd is pro-USMNT.

  12. I have read some people’s comments on hear asking why we would play in a small stadium when we could play in a big one?

    The reason we want to play in a smaller venue like columbus or rio tinto is because the USSF can control the tickets, and in this way prevent large numbers of mexican fans filling up a 70,000 seat stadium. That’s why columbus was able to be decidedly pro-US in 2001 and 2005.

    We shouldnt be worried about revenue when making this decision.

  13. If it is in SLC, it won’t be a pro-mexico crowd near the field. Maybe up in the rafters, but not close to the field. I guarantee that all RSL season ticket holders get their seats. Also think a lot of RSL fans would get tickets, not to mention the NATS junkies that would fly in.

    I personally will be on the front row and louder than any Mexi.

    BTW- for those that think SLC is a frozen tundra in the winter- it isn’t. In Utah, we get a lot of warm, sunny days in the valley where it is actually shorts weather. You can ski in the morning and then mountain bike the valley trails in the afternoon.

    – unless it snows, which is likely.

  14. “Why is cold weather such an advantage? Most of the US team comes from warm weather states and aren’t necessarily used to playing in the cold. Brett Favre is from MS and he did ok up in Green Bay. ”

    Good thinking. We’ll have it in Green Bay.

  15. I was at Rio Tinto today buying some gear and saw a sign that said: “Rio Tinto Welcomes US Soccer” and a bunch of suits were walking on the pitch…

  16. SLC should be the place. granted it is not the size of the Qwest field, but no one bitched about the last game the US played in Houston. It certainly wouldn’t be anymore of a home game for mexico than anywhere else.

    They have populations all over the country. Per the US Census: Utah: White persons not Hispanic, percent, 2006 82.9%; Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2006 11.2%.
    I hardly doubt it would be any different than other city. Have you been to SLC…do you now how white bred this town is?

  17. Salt Lake would have a huge pro-US crowd in spite of all the Mexicans living in Utah. RSL would just open ticket sales to season ticket holders first and let them buy up to 10 extra tickets. RSL have very few Mexican fans, so the pro-US STH’s would buy up the entire stadium and sell the extra tickets to their pro-US friends and family. The stadium would be sold out before tickets ever went on sale to the public, and it would be mostly US fans.

    Don’t give the game to Seattle. Sure, you might get 65k fans, but 35k of them will be Mexican. I don’t see the home field advantage in that.

  18. lassidawg – no worries man. i only looked up the attendance because i was at the game, and didn’t remember there being that many people there…

  19. US Fan:
    “The basic truth is that wherever the Mexican team plays in the US there will be major Mexican support. Cannot get around it.”

    While you’re going to have Mexican supporter presence no matter what, the point here is to have the stadium _feel_ like a home game – with overwhelming support on our side.

    Could this be accomplished in Seattle or SLC? Maybe, we don’t know. Has it been accomplished in Columbus? Yes, definitely.

  20. It’ll be plenty cold in Salt Lake in February, and there is a good chance that it will be snowing too. Rio Tinto is an amazing venue and the field is pristine. I heard somewhere that Bradley requested that they not play anymore qualifiers on turf or grass that has been recently installed. I’m not sure of the source (still looking), but that would hurt Seattle’s chances too. SLC could produce as good a Pro US crowd as any, It’ll be interesting to see what the USSF decide.

  21. Seattle is perfect. It’ll be cold (and probably rainy). It will be on natural turf. A lot of tickets will be sold. There will be an appropriate big-game atmosphere.

    The basic truth is that wherever the Mexican team plays in the US there will be major Mexican support. Cannot get around it.

    Accordingly, we should just sell as many tickets as possible and focus long term on converting Mexican-American fans and creating new U.S. soccer fans. For the former, the increasing presence of Mexican-American players will help.

    How much more enjoyable was the Gold Cup win because Solider Field was full (even with Mexican fans)? I’d say it was a lot more enjoyable.

    Seattle is a good balance.

  22. Why is cold weather such an advantage? Most of the US team comes from warm weather states and aren’t necessarily used to playing in the cold. Brett Favre is from MS and he did ok up in Green Bay.

  23. Just a point of order lassidawg, the attendance for the Venezuela game was 17k (according to And both Gold Cup matches in 2005 against Cuba and Canada drew 15k each (same source).

    Now granted, the Venezuela match was supposed to be vs Japan, but they backed out due to “security concerns” as we’d just started bombing Iraq. Venezuela was a last minute replacement.

    Maybe no one cares about the Gold Cup here, or a meaningless exhibition against a mediocre South American team, but I don’t think we should opine on a sell out at Qwest based on previous Nats games attendances. Don’t get me wrong, I think we’d draw well, but not for that reason.

  24. i love the WCQ’s in Columbus, have been there, done that, and want to do it again.

    i would not travel to the other two, but SLC is a beautiful venue (Columbus IS suffering in that dept, but hey this is not a beauty contest) and while I like the huge crowd potential at Qwest, I don’t think it would be filled with chants of “USA! USA!”. We are not at a stage where I want to test our ability to beat Mexico with no psychological or physical advantages at our disposal. Columbus!

  25. Qwest would be sold out, we have drawn close to 30 for the womens Gold cup at Safeco and near it for a friendly against Venenzula.

    While our “friends” from the south (portland) don’t generally support the Sounders I am guessing there would be a strong contingent from that area as well.

    Like I said before there would be a sizeable contingent supporting Mexico.

  26. I think Rio Tinto will be a fine place. great atmosphere. Who knows, it may prove to be better than crew Stadium. I hope so. I dont know anything about Qwest field though.

  27. Agreed that Columbus should be the host.

    Like I said earlier Chicago has already shown that it would be pro Mexico based on games last summer.

    As for the weather I think all four places will be cold enough for where ever it plays. Nothing like Seattle “snow” in Feburary to make 45 degrees feel like 10 below.

    I am biased and I have been waiting for the day to have a shot at a meaningful game in Seattle. We have always supported the National teams when they have come through here. If half the crowd turns out to be pro Mexico then don’t do it again.

    My only other negative for us hosting the game would be the mojo that has been going on the last year for our local teams.

  28. No better option than Columbus.

    1. Control over the percentage of US fans
    2. Weather
    3. Field (dimensions, natural turf, no trays)

    As for #1, Columbus has demonstrated twice in a row that it can deliver US fans. Even though there are plenty of Mexicans within driving distance, having Crew season ticket holders plus traveling US fans accounts for the vast majority of that stadium. Seattle just doesn’t have that kind of network of supporters yet, plus with a larger stadium, you just aren’t going to sell more than say 30K tickets up front. SLC fails because there simply are more Mexicans nearby. Costa Rica really isn’t the correct comparison here. Because the political situation there has been fairly stable for a while now, there just aren’t the same numbers in the US.

    2. Weather: I’m not sure you have to go as cold as Columbus to get an advantage, because you want it playable too. But there’s no doubt that US players are generally more used to playing in cold weather, both in MLS and in Europe.

    3. Field: As I recall, another minus for Seattle is that the field, being for an NFL team, is a bit narrower. But I don’t think this should be the deal breaker.

    I vote for Columbus.

  29. I said Chicago and was at both the Semi-Final & Finals for the Gold Cup and am well aware of the crowd. However, those of you whom are screaming Seattle seem to forget the large contingent of Mexican fans whom have been on hand for matches in the area. This game should remain in Columbus (it’ so painful to say it), Seattle and Real Salt Lake shouldn’t even be considered for this match. If you’re gonna put it in a place where the crowd is going to be pro Mexican to that extent then place it in Chicago. If nothing else it would be quite cold for the match.

  30. By the way, there are plenty of season ticket holders (here in Columbus and I’m sure around the MLS as well) who will support Mexico.

  31. There’s no way to only sell X number of tickets to “away” fans, because most of the Mexican supporters at these games live in the United States.

  32. I’d be disappointed if the game wasn’t in Columbus. It was one of the best soccer matches I’ve ever been to last time around but there is no way I’d travel to another state.

  33. This debate over what venue give us the best advantage is a bit ridiculous. Our team is now strong enough to beat Mexico anywhere. This strategy is outdated and we need to be more confident on our team.

    I would love to have a WCQ game against Mexico out in SoCal sometime soon. Like northzax said, it would be awesome to take on Mexico at the Rose Bowl in from of over 100K people, right in Mexico’s backyard.

    What I would suggest is that USSF implement a system like they do in european football, where away fans get only a percentage of tickets. Have security implement and label it a “security concern.” Also, lets not forget the animosity toward Mexicans that many non-mexican Latinos have towards the mexican team. I think SoCal would have a huge pro-US crowd, as long as we only sell a select percentage of tickets to the pro-Mexico crowd.

    and lets face it, the atmosphere is much better if the opposition has a decent turnout, which we’ll never have to worry about when Mexico plays.

    take them on in the Rose Bowl!

  34. I would like to see Columbus get the game, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.

    Being in Seattle I wouldn’t complain about the game being held here. I would assume that the season ticket holders would have first crack at seats. If that is the case most or all of the lower bowl would be Pro USA. If they offer more seats to the holders I would do my part to have them go only to USA supporters.

    I have no doubts that it would sell out here, but I would guess that 25% of the crowed would root for Mexico.

    Of course the US team is used to playing them with 75-100% rooting for Mexico.

    Whoever said Chicago doesn’t remeber the Gold Cup final.

  35. There are millions of Mexicans in Oregon and Washington… Oregon is the new California, Washington is the new Oregon. There MIGHT BE a lot more Mexicans than one MIGHT think.

  36. Bob Bradley has expressed his specific opposition to playing in a stadium that has to roll out turf a few days before the game. So the fact that Seattle has turf is very relevant.

    Here is the reality as I see it: If the game is played in a big stadium, Mexican fans will fill every single empty seat. So unless there are 50k US fans planning on buying pre-sale tickets, you’d better think twice about holding the game in Seattle.

    Rio Tinto would be an excellent choice. The US-Costa Rica crowd in 2005 was one of the best, and the limited stadium size should work to the the advantage of the US.

  37. I don’t think either site provides a home field advantage because the travel distance for European base Americans (most of the team) will be greater than the distance for the Mexicans who mostly play in the MFL.

    Secondly, more Mexicans are comfortable playing at at altitude while most yanks abroad will be coming from sea level. Thus, Salt Lake is not a good strategic choice.

    I would like it to be played at my local high school stadium so I could see it but anywhere it is played it will be a good game.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and predict right now that both US and Mexico will qualify for the world cup. This game will have no bearing on qualification.

  38. Umm…mm those of you pushing for Seattle based on the larger stadium. NewsFlash, We have just as big a Stadium in Chicago and we sold it out the last time Mexico was here, all 64K plus seats. Average February temps in Chicago are: 33F High / 17F Low and Soldier Field is right off of good ‘ol Lake Michigan and chances are since it’s warmer than January, there will be some snow. It would also be a sunny day. Wanna see what it might look like in February at Soldier Field, watch the Bears – Saints game tonight, except February is alot colder. Any tables you check stating the average high here in February is 40, is full of crap. I was born and raised here and 40 is a hot day in February in Chicago. I think someone called this perfectly, they’re negotiating, well at least I truly hope like hell they are because again it makes no damn sense to play this match anywhere else other than Columbus unless you’re trying to sell more tickets and get more from concessions. If that’s the case then we’re being sold out by our own Federation.


Leave a Comment