When the attendance for the USA starts to fall off a cliff, the surest way to boost the numbers is to schedule a friendly against Mexico, which is also a preview of the Nations League semifinals. Playing against Mexico in an NFL stadium always draws a big crowd and helps boost the TV viewership. Such is the case with Wednesday night’s friendly that US Soccer and Mexican FMF are coining it the Continental Clásico. 

The Continental Clasico may not have the draw of a Nations League or Gold Cup Final or a World Cup Qualifying fixture. The fans in the United States were treated to three of those in 2021. However, this is merely a friendly. But, anytime the United States and Mexico meet on the pitch, there is inherent intrigue. That is regardless of any apparent cash grab by US Soccer. Both the United States and Mexico must raise revenue and interest before the 2026 World Cup, where both nations automatically qualify.

Yet, this game is in Glendale, AZ, which is not among the World Cup venues for that tournament. It is, however, the first game for the USMNT outside an MLS-specific stadium since Nissan Stadium in Nashville hosted the World Cup qualifier between the USMNT and Canada in 2021. The last time the USMNT played at State Farm Stadium was a friendly against Panama in 2019. Kickoff for Wednesday’s game is at 10 p.m. ET, and coverage is available on TBS and Telemundo. You can also watch on HBO Max.

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MLS heavy squad

USMNT interim boss Anthony Hudson called up a squad comprised almost entirely of MLS players. Reason being, this friendly falls outside of a FIFA international window. Therefore, the European-based players, and those in MLS, are still in the swing of club action.

There are three exceptions, however, to this MLS squad. One player, Sergiño Dest, is on the AC Milan squad. Then, Alan Sonora plays for FC Juarez in Mexico. But, perhaps the most interesting call-up is 17-year-old Joshua Wynder. He is a US-based player but doesn’t play in MLS. He plays for perhaps the most successful and dominant club in the USL Championship, Louisville City.

Everybody else on the roster is an MLS player. There is a mix of experience and youth in the squad with stalwarts such as DeAndre Yedlin, Walker Zimmerman and Jordan Morris. They balance out the youthful inexperience of Brandon Vazquez, Cade Cowell and Caleb Wiley. Some of these players were in the squad when these two last met, so they can provide a preview of what the USA against Mexico may look like. That was a 0-0 draw at the Estadio Azteca in World Cup qualifying.

A preview of Mexico, a familiar foe for the USA

Since their elimination in the group stage of the World Cup in Qatar, Mexico has been in roughly the same boat as the USMNT. There was a coaching search where they ended up with their third or fourth option in Diego Cocca. Originally from Argentina, Cocca has spent time managing a variety of clubs in Mexico including Santos Laguna, Tijuana, Atlas, and Tigres.

The form for Mexico since the World Cup consists of two games, both in March in the Nations League. First was a 2-0 win away to Suriname, which they followed up with a surprising 2-2 home draw with Jamaica at Azteca.

Like the US, the roster for this game is almost entirely domestic based. Only LA Galaxy midfielder Efrain Alvarez and former LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo come from non-Liga MX clubs. Their domestic players also have plenty of experience. Jesus Gallardo, Nestor Araujo, Uriel Antuna and Carlos Rodriguez all have 39 caps or more.

That group has seen many of the games between the USMNT and Mexico. All time, though, Mexico holds the lead with 36 wins, 22 losses and 16 draws.

Fittingly, the next game for either team is against one another. The CONCACAF Nations League semifinal in the middle of June will be the next international meet up for both camps. That is in Las Vegas, NV.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire