U.S.-Mexico rivalry about to heat up 

April, 13, 2011

A little more than a month ago, it appeared as if the raucous U.S.-Mexico rivalry would cool considerably. CONCACAF sought changes in the region's World Cup qualification system which, if approved by FIFA, would have made it unlikely that the Yanks and El Tri would face each other on the road to Brazil 2014.

What a difference a bureaucratic decision makes. FIFA's rejection last month of the CONCACAF proposal leaves the old qualifying format basically intact, with the U.S. and Mexico once again likely to play each other in two high-profile, home-and-home matches during the final round.

Now, a few fascinating new dynamics are developing as both countries gear up for this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup. For the first time, the late-April CONCACAF Champions League final between Real Salt Lake and Monterrey is bringing the rivalry to the club level in a meaningful, high-stakes way: The winner qualifies for December's FIFA Club World Cup.

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