San Antonio is so ready for futból, I mean soccer, at the highest level to arrive in San Antonio. The city’s appetite and the growing fan base’s willingness to support an MLS franchise is as sure a bet as a penalty kick from the box. Okay, some will criticize me for describing MLS as the “highest level” when we all know it isn’t La Liga or Premier League, but it is the major league in the United States.
The evidence of that support? Certainly the success of the San Antonio Scorpions is one measure. The team has built a solid and growing fan base as it captured the 2014 North American Soccer League championship. The team made its debut in 2012, and just opened its 2015 season and plays at home Saturday. Click here for tickets.
There’s more. Downtown San Antonio Wednesday evening will be a sea of fans sporting the national colors of USA and Mexico, and the reason is soccer. The U.S. MNT-Mexico friendly, scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., at the 65,000-seat Alamodome, is sold out. It’s been sold out for quite a while. When was the last time 65,000 people filled the Alamodome on a weekday night? Answer: maybe never.
I’ve overheard people talking about paying serious money for after-market tickets. Online sites are offering seats from $63 to $445, with a single suite being shopped for $6K.
If you are coming downtown, you better plan your transportation carefully. City officials expect major traffic jams. One sensible option is to let someone else do the driving. For $2.50 each way, cash only, you can travel courtesy of VIA’s Special Event Service that opens at 4 p.m. at VIA’s eight Park & Ride locations and will be available for 45 minutes after the game ends.
I’ve checked my tickets about 10 times in the last two months to make sure they still exist. It will be interesting to see which team wins the most fan support. Like the game, I expect it to be close.
“I know there’s going to be fans on both sides and I’m looking forward to it,” said U.S. Forward Chad Wondolowski after a practice session at Trinity University. “Anytime you play Mexico you know it’s going to be a huge rival and it’s exciting.”
How big is this game? For San Antonio, the game will be the first visit of the U.S. national team since 1988, 27 years ago. World Cup fans will see some familiar names on the field, and be introduced to the next generation of U.S. players vying for roster positions for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The same goes for the Mexican side: Not all the stars who play regularly for pro clubs in Europe come home for all their home country’s exhibition matches, especially three years out from the next World Cup. Clubs don’t want to release players more often than required, and their absence gives emerging players the opportunity to win time on the pitch and prove their mettle.
For the two teams, even a “friendly” counts in an intensifying rivalry that has seen the U.S. side gain equal footing with their once dominant Mexican counterparts. The U.S. is 17-32-14 against Mexico in the modern era, but has righted accounts in the last 15 years and is 12-5-5 since 2000. The Mexican’s “El Tri,” comes to San Antonio struggling to overcome a five-game winless streak. Such a one-sided trend once would have been unthinkable for soccer interests south of the border.
One interesting story line in the game will be William Yarbrough, one of the three U.S. goalies brought here by U.S. men’s national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann. Yarbrough, blond and blue-eyed, was raised in Aguascalientes, the son of U.S. missionaries, and he now plays for Club Leon in Liga MX, the country’s top league. You can read a feature story on him in today’s Express-News.
Want to listen in to Klinsmann’s pre-game press conference? Here are a few video clips courtesy of Courtesy of U.S. Soccer/T3Media:
On the roster and how it sets up USA-Mexico:
On what Yarbrough and Alvarado showed to deserve being called in:
On how this game fits in the preparation for the Gold Cup:
On how the door never closes on players, no matter how long they have been out of the team:
On the value of having Liga MX players on the U.S. roster for USA-Mexico:
On the impact of Altidore and Dempsey being out for USA-Mexico:
On how he views the USA-Mexico Rivalry:
*Featured/top image: United States Soccer player Chris Wondolowski speaks with press at a practice hosted by Trinity University. Photo by Scott Ball.