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USA prepares for pro-Mexico crowds on home soil, at El Tri’s ‘second home’ AT&T Stadium

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One of the great rivalries in the world of soccer, Mexico vs. the United States, could be on display Sunday at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium. But if that happens, don’t expect the USMNT to feel at home.

En español: Multitud de fans mexicanos hará que el Tri se sienta en casa en el AT&T Stadium

The Final Four of the Concacaf Nations League starts Thursday at the home of the Cowboys, with the United States facing Jamaica and Mexico facing Panama in the semifinals. The winners will meet in the final Sunday.

The tournament will showcase the Mexican national team’s overwhelming popularity in the United States. Last year, El Tri averaged 52,337 fans at each of its 15 U.S. games, and this year expects to have record attendance.

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The U.S. men’s national team averaged 29,578 fans last year in 11 games, its highest attendance since 2017, but still far short of the Mexican team.

The passion of El Tri fans for their team means that on many occasions, the players from the United States have to face a hostile environment on their own soil.

“The more hostile the crowd, the better for me,” USMNT centerback Miles Robinson said before beginning his Wednesday workout at Toyota Stadium.

Robinson, who scored the goal that helped the U.S. beat Mexico in the 2021 Gold Cup, said the large crowds that El Tri draws make him a better player.

“I’m all in favor of a big crowd that has energy, it’s very exciting to play in front of a big crowd. The more adverse the environment, the more it excites me to play and give my best,” said Robinson, who plays for FC Cincinnati in the MLS.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie, who hails from nearby Little Elm, said he is used to dealing with Mexican fans.

“Honestly, It’s pretty normal for me. it’s something we’re used to, especially in an area like Dallas,” said the midfielder who plays for Juventus in Italy.

“I grew up surrounded by Mexicans, but obviously, it is a challenge to play in front of a large crowd of Mexican fans, but you just have to treat it as if it were just another game,” McKennie said.

Chicago-based promotor Sinhue Mendoza, who has more than 15 years of experience organizing soccer games in the United States, said Mexicans’ cultural heritage contributes to the team’s popularity.

“The Mexican culture in which you have lived since childhood has much to do with it,” he said. “Although I was born in the United States, the first soccer jersey I had as a child was the green Mexican shirt.”

There are 37.4 million Mexicans living in the U.S., accounting for 60% of the country’s Hispanic population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Immigration status prevents many of them from returning to their home country to see the national team play. So when Mexicans have the opportunity to see the team, they pack the stadiums.

“It is a very emotional moment to see the Mexican team here in the United States,” said Bryan Juárez, a Mexican who arrived in North Texas 13 years ago and cannot return, for now.

“The Mexican team makes me very nostalgic,” he said. “It makes me remember the family I have left behind’.

Juárez, 26, plays soccer on three different local league teams, and he said watching the Mexican national team in the United States makes him feel like he never left his home country.

“It is an honor to see my team and hear my country’s national anthem here in the United States,” he said. “It makes you realize everything you have left in Mexico and everything you have achieved in this country.”

When asked why he believes the Mexican team draws much larger crowds than the USMNT in stadiums in the United States, Juárez said. “For us Mexicans, soccer is everything.”

The most recognizable face of the USMNT today, Christian Pulisic, said that it is hard to play in front of a crowd of Mexican fans who always support his team.

“We have had many tests against Mexico over the years, and we enjoy those matches,” said Pulisic, who plays for AC Milan in Italy.

“It’s always tough, Mexico always drew a great crowd, but we have improved a lot with our fan base as well. Not every game makes you feel like you are in a hostile environment, but Mexico has amazing fans, and it’s a good test for us,” Pulisic said

This summer, Mexico will play the Copa América in the United States, in addition to five friendlies, including a match against Canada at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 10.

In a June 8 game against Brazil, Mexico expects to have more than 100,000 fans in the seats at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field in College Station, which would set an attendance record for its games in the U.S.

“Culturally, the Mexican fan is very loyal to his country, and in terms of marketing, Mexico knows how to sell its teams very well to the fans who live in the United States,” Mendoza said.

He also said the team’s success in the U.S. comes from Mexican fans celebrating the games as if they fall on national holidays.

“Mexicans love to go to the stadium for a good party, not just to watch a soccer game,” Mendoza said. “For Mexican fans, a soccer game is a social event, grilling meat in the parking lot, shouting cheers with their faces painted, and waving their flags. In short, it’s quite a party.”

To neutralize the advantage the Mexican fans could provide their team, the U.S. men began playing Mexico in regions without large Mexican populations, making U.S. soccer strongholds out of cities such as Columbus, Nashville and Cincinnati.

But for the Final Four of the Nations League, the U.S. had no say on the venue chosen by Concacaf.

“Dallas, AT&T Stadium, has become the second home of the Mexican national team,” Mexico head coach Jaime Lozano said in a recent news conference at the stadium.

“Every time we play here, we feel the support of our fans. It is a stadium where we are good at things, and we always go out to try to win the game and leave our fans satisfied,” said Lozano. “We are practically the home team in this stadium.”

How to watch the CONCACAF semifinals

United States vs. Jamaica

When: 6 p.m. (Thursday, March 21)

Streaming: Paramount+

Mexico vs. Panama

When: 9:15 p.m. (Thursday, March 21)

Streaming: Paramount+

How to watch the CONCACAF final

When: 8:15 p.m. Sunday at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium

Streaming: Paramount+

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