It’s only a matter of time.
For all the hoopla and marketing efforts which have inflated the US vs. Mexico rivalry to new heights over the last decade, it is destined to be superseded by a new border war.
Tuesday night’s Gold Cup group match between the USA and Canada in Detroit (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer) will present another chapter in a newer rivalry that has all the ingredients to overtake the bitter battles between El Tri and the Americans.
Here are the 10 reasons that USA vs. Canada will become the biggest rivalry in all of CONCACAF:
(10) Battle For Players: While there is an ongoing battle between the USA and Mexico for the alliances of younger players, the same battle is being waged between the USA and Canada. Teal Bunbury’s move to opt for the USA instead of Canada is arguably more high profile than any one defection in the tug-of-war with Mexico.
(9) European Contingent: Sure, they may not have as many players as the USA starting in the EPL, but Canada has as large a foreign-based legion of players as the US or Mexico. And Canada’s contingent is more impressive based on the fact that they find themselves in a more diverse collection of leagues: Holland, Turkey, Romania, England, Germany, Serbia, France and Norway. If the USA thought they had an advantage with regards to European experience, Canada give them more than a run for their money in this department.
(8) Familiarity Breeds Contempt: With two Canadian clubs in MLS (and a third on the way next year), there are significantly more Canadians playing in MLS than there are Mexicans. American soccer fans get to see Dwayne De Rosario, Julian de Guzman and Andre Hainault on a regular basis. The more you know your opposition, the easier it is for a national team fan to get up for a match.
Also, given the number of players who confront one another weekly, there is likely more bad blood between, say, Landon Donovan and Will Johnson than between, say, Donovan and Mexico’s Giovani dos Santos.
(7) Club and Country: The opportunities for the USA vs. Canada rivalry to extend into club soccer are more plentiful than they are with Mexican sides. Aside from the Champions League final between Real Salt Lake and Monterrey and a few CCL group matches later this summer, there just aren’t as many chances to recreate the magic.
(6) Traveling Fans: With the security issues that Mexico is grappling with in its larger cities — even Red Bulls defender Rafa Márquez says he doesn’t walk around in his native country without bodyguards — there has rarely been a significant traveling American contingent in Mexico. American Outlaws and Sam’s Army are far more likely to travel in numbers for Canadian away matches, and vice versa.
(5) Frequency: Since Canada have yet to earn the status of a “seeded” team when CONCACAF conducts competition draws, there is more of a likelihood for head-to-head matchups between the USA and Canada in tournaments like the Gold Cup, World Cup qualifying or youth national team and Olympic qualifying. Mexico and the USA are traditionally kept apart in CONCACAF brackets, which sometimes leads to no match-up at all. (See: 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.)
(4) Disappearing Act: Midfielder Gerardo Torrado and Rafa Márquez are the lone holdovers of the villains that American fans love to hate on the Mexican national team. Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Jared Borgetti, Jorge Campos and Luis Hernández are some of the most notorious names of yesteryear who have not been replaced by anyone who generates the same animosity.
(3) CONCACAF Hierarchy: One of the factors that fueled the USA vs. Mexico rivalry over recent years has been the USA’s quest to overtake Mexico as the best team in CONCACAF. It’s not "mission accomplished," but the USA and Mexico are on even playing field these days and results between the two could go either way.
The old dynamic that existed with USA vs. Mexico — and the element of revenge that existed for El Tri after the USA knocked them out in the 2002 World Cup — now exists with Canada. The Canadians want to make it a Big Three in CONCACAF and the USA is in their crosshairs. USA vs. Canada will never just be another game, and all it needs to rise to the level of USA vs. Mexico is one momentous Canadian victory.
“The US has done phenomenal at the international level,” De Rosario said. “They’re where we want to be.”
(2) Inglés Sin Barreras: The fact that there are no language barriers between Canada and the USA also boosts the hype for these matches. The majority of American fans can follow Canada’s preparations, read up on their foreign-based players and joust with their Canadian national team supporters.
(1) Even Playing Field: Don’t expect any 5-0 results in the series between Yanks and Canucks. These two teams have very similar playing styles, showcasing speed, athleticism and the special play from their clutch players. And there are no extraordinary factors — like Mexico City’s altitude — to artificially impact the series. Although the USA is 7-0-6 in their last 13 games, the all-time series is a very even 12-8-9 in favor of the Americans.
“Growing up throughout the Canadian youth system, it’s always been a rivalry playing against the US,” De Rosario told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “I don’t think there’s ever an easy USA vs. Canada game. It always feels like a cup game, even when it’s a friendly.”
But is it really big enough to become bigger than CONCACAF's traditional rivalry?
“It can,” Toronto FC’s Canadian defender Nana Attakora told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “I believe it can. USA vs. Canada is one of the biggest rivalries I’ve ever seen.”