Picking an optimal U.S.-Mexico team 

March, 25, 2013

MEXICO CITY -- Need proof that familiarity breeds contempt? Look no further than the U.S.-Mexico soccer rivalry. In the 100-year history of the American program, El Tri has been the Yanks' most frequent foe, holding a 32-16-12 record all time versus the Americans.

As with all great rivalries, there's often a thin line between mutual respect and downright hatred, and in the heat of battle it's complicated by the fact that the two countries are inextricability linked in so many ways -- not the least of them the 30 million people of Mexican descent living stateside.

On the field, the U.S. and Mexico have become increasingly competitive over the past dozen years. Since 2000, the Yanks lead the series 11-5-3, and they also eliminated El Tri from the 2002 World Cup. But the pendulum has swung back recently -- the U.S. has only one win in the adversaries' past five meetings.

Still, the Americans' steady improvement and the ever-developing link between the two nations have led to more respect on both sides of the border.

So with the two squads set to rumble at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Tuesday night (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, WatchESPN.com), my colleagues at Insider's El Tri Blog, the esteemed Tom Marshall and Eric Gomez, thought it would be fun to look each country's player pool in a slightly unconventional way -- by picking a combined optimal U.S.-Mexican team from the two rosters.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.