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Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 6:53pm
The United States and Mexico may have close ties in politics and trade, but when it comes to soccer they are heated rivals.
Their teams are set to face off Tuesday night in a closely watched World Cup qualifier at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
The stadium seats 105,000 people and has long been a daunting venue for U.S. teams. However, seven months ago, the U.S. team beat Mexico 1-0 in an exhibition match -- marking the first U.S. victory there.
Tuesday's game won't be the deciding match in determining who will play in next year's 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The final round of qualifying games has just begun and stretches into the fall.
But the intense rivalry between the Mexico and U.S. teams put the game on the front page of many Mexican newspapers Tuesday.
And the timing is also key. It comes after Mexico's 0-0 draw with Jamaica last month, which drew sharp criticism from fans. Mexico had dominated its group in the previous round of qualifying, winning six of six matches.
The U.S. team also faced scrutiny in its 1-0 win against Costa Rica during a blizzard in Colorado last week. The Costa Rican Football Federation filed a complaint with soccer's global governing body, FIFA, arguing that markings on field weren't visible, and suggesting the snow affected the "physical integrity" of the players and hampered movement of the ball.
FIFA dismissed the complaint on Tuesday, saying the game's results stand.
That win lifted the United States into second place behind Honduras among the six teams that have made it to Round 4 in the North/Central America and Caribbean Group. With two draws in two matches, Mexico is in a three-way tie for third going into Tuesday's matches.
U.S. defender Clarence Goodson, who will be playing in the stadium for the first time, told FIFA.com earlier this week that he was looking forward to it.
"These games between Mexico and the U.S. are different; we are the top teams in the region and it's always a massive game," he said. "This is the big one, the one that all the players want to be a part of."
Mexican coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre told reporters Monday that "the responsibility is great" in front of the Mexican fans, who booed his team during their last match at the Azteca Stadium -- the draw with Jamaica.
"I am confident that the people are going to be with us, and they (the U.S. players) are going to be the ones under pressure," Mexican midfielder Andres Guardado told reporters Monday.