Two days away: U.S.-Mexico II

The United States faces Mexico on U.S. soil in World Cup Qualifying once every four years in the most highly anticipated match played in the U.S. over that time period. On Feb. 28, 2001 the U.S. took on Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium in a final round World Cup Qualifier, winning 2-0, en route to qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan/Korea.

Fast forward four years later and U.S.-Mexico II comes to Crew Stadium on September 3, 2005, in an equally important final round World Cup Qualifying match.

With the match just two days away, here are some more facts and information regarding this intense rivalry as we head toward the September 3 showdown.

Today, Crew General Manager Mark McCullers announced that fans from at least 292 cities, towns or villages and 84 of the 88 counties within the state of Ohio have purchased tickets to Saturday's U.S. vs. Mexico World Cup qualifier at Crew Stadium. The four counties that aren't represented are Adams, Ashtabula, Guernsey and Monroe.

The Labor Day weekend tilt looms even larger as former Crew star Brian McBride scored just 91 seconds into the game as the U.S. defeated Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0, on August 17 and can now clinch a berth to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany with a win over Mexico on September 3. The World Cup berth would be the fifth consecutive for the U.S. squad and its eighth overall since the first World Cup in 1930. The 2006 tournament will be the 18th World Cup Finals played.

A tie vs. Mexico could also clinch a U.S. berth in the 2006 World Cup, but only if the other two CONCACAF qualifying matches on September 3 (Panama vs. Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guatemala) result in ties, or T&T and Guatemala tie and Costa Rica loses.

Mexico defeated Costa Rica, 2-0, at home on August 17 to maintain the top spot in the final round of qualifying with 16 points (5-0-1), while the U.S sits in second place with 15 points (5-1-0). In the other CONCACAF match last night, Guatemala beat Panama at home, 2-1. Costa Rica and Guatemala are tied for third with seven points each, with Trinidad & Tobago in fifth with four points and Panama sixth with two points.

The CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying tournament is a 10-game round-robin format tournament that began on Feb. 9 and runs through Oct. 12, 2005, with the top three teams automatically advancing to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. The fourth-place team will compete in a two-game playoff to be held Nov. 12/13 and Nov. 16 against the fifth-place finisher in Asian qualifying.

Tickets for the U.S. vs. Mexico World Cup qualifier in Columbus sold out minutes after they went on sale to the general public on August 2. Anticipating the biggest international soccer event in Crew Stadium since the U.S. faced Mexico on Feb. 28, 2001, fans snapped up tickets during a week-long presale for select members of the U.S. Soccer community, including registered members and Crew season ticket holders. The remaining tickets sold out in 20 minutes.

The Crew Stadium match will be the fifth World Cup qualifier hosted by the six-year old venue. The U.S. has a 2-0-2 record in qualifying and a 3-0-3 all-time record there. In 2004, the U.S. defeated Grenada on June 13 by a 3-0 score in a second-round qualifying match, before tying Jamaica, 1-1, in the final match of the semifinal round on Nov. 17. The U.S. matches at Crew Stadium also include the 2-0 victory over Mexico in the last U.S. final-round qualifier vs. the Tricolores at home. In that match on Feb. 28, 2001, Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart scored for the U.S. before a sold-out crowd of 24,624 fans who braved freezing temperatures.

The U.S. has just 11 wins in 50 matches against Mexico in a series that dates to 1934, but the U.S. has a 9-6-8 advantage in home matches since 1957. In the last nine meetings, the U.S. has won six games by shutout and tied another meeting, 0-0, in 2003. Additionally, since the rivalry between these two teams began in earnest in 1990, the sides have played 23 times, with the U.S. holding a 9-7-7 advantage. The last two U.S. losses were in Mexico City in final-round qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, including a 2-1 defeat on March 27 of this year.

Under U.S. Manager Bruce Arena, the U.S. has a 6-4-1 record vs. their border rivals including a 13-6 advantage in goal differential. The biggest of those six wins was a 2-0 victory for the U.S. on June 17, 2002, that sent Mexico home from Korea while the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup. In World Cup qualifying, the U.S. has a 3-14-5 record vs. Mexico.

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