Grant Wahl: Mexican National Team is the ‘Most Popular' Soccer Team in the US originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is just days away and fans in the United States will be cheering on their "favorite team:" Mexico.
Many may be wondering why the United States men's national team isn't slated as the favorite of the U.S. ahead of this year's World Cup. But over the years, it has been proven that the support for the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams among people living in America trails behind the support of Mexico.
While for some fans, the World Cup is the event where one cheers and celebrates one’s national identity. But for the typical American fan, that doesn't hold true – and American sports journalist and soccer analyst for CBS Sports Grant Wahl agrees.
“It's kind of crazy to say it but the most popular soccer team in the United States is the Mexican national team,” Wahl said in an interview with NBC.
“They fill NFL stadiums and they can make more money playing games in the United States than they can in Mexico.”
Soccer has come quite a long way in the U.S. when it comes to its growing fan base domestically and abroad.
According to a survey done in 2020 ranking the most popular soccer clubs according to U.S. fans, Arsenal of the English Premier League took the No. 1 spot. The first Major League Soccer team on the list was the LA Galaxy, which came in at No. 12. Atlanta United (No. 16) is the only other American club on the list that falls in the top 20 most popular teams, as seen by Americans.
“I think part of the identity of Mexican-Americans who have immigrated from Mexico to the United States ... part of keeping their identity is rooting for the Mexican National Team and it's very easy to do that still living in the United States because Mexico plays so often here.”
The Mexican and United States national teams have always been seen as rivals, and with Mexico being labeled as the most popular, it hasn’t always sat well with some.
In 2018, after the U.S. men’s team failed to qualify for the World Cup held in Russia, former U.S. national team star Landon Donovan took part in the “My Other Team is Mexico” campaign. In the campaign, Donovan asked Americans to root for Mexico at the World Cup, which didn’t go over quite well with fans.
“‘The neighbors’ is a way to describe the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico in soccer,” Wahl says.
“It’s a fascinating rivalry that I think is unique in international sports, including international soccer. I think it’s the best rivalry in international sports.”
Mexico will take the World Cup stage when they face off against Poland in Group C on Nov. 22 at 11 a.m. ET. The USMNT will kick off their group stage play against Wales in Group B on Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. ET.