The rivalry between the United States and Mexico is the best in CONCACAF, but that's not necessarily saying a lot. While North America is almost certainly in the process of catching up to South America and Europe in football, it's not one of the power continents in the international game. The US and Mexico are the only two teams among the 30 best in the world, and as a result, are the best rivalry by default.
However, peruse through social media today and you'll find some American soccer fans comparing it to the best rivalries in American sports. UNC-Duke, Michigan-Ohio State, Packers-Bears, Celtics-Lakers, Yankees-Red Sox, you name it. There are some interesting problems with this comparison, though, as this game doesn't equate for a few reasons.
1. Those rivalries all have lengthy history
Every single one of those rivalries listed above has been a rivalry for a very long time. Some might argue that Duke-UNC wasn't a proper rivalry until Coach K came around and Lakers-Celtics wasn't a proper rivalry until the Bird-Magic duels, but in both cases, that happened in the 1980s. The United States men's national soccer team was not yet relevant until the early 1990s.
That might be nit-picky, though. This could be a great recent rivalry, like the Patriots-Colts rivalry. Those two teams are both very accomplished and their fanbases seem to genuinely dislike each other. However, it still has something very important that the USA-Mexico rivalry does not have.
2. Those rivalries all have fairly even fanbases
As a USMNT fan, this kind of hurts to say, but here goes: Mexico has a better fanbase than the United States does. They sell out large NFL stadiums for crappy friendly matches in places that do not have a large Mexican-American population. While there is a small contingent of USMNT fans that are among the greatest sports fans anywhere on the planet, most of the fanbase is fairly apathetic and will not go to expensive games, games against bad teams, or games they have to travel a long way for. Ford Field was about 1/3 full for USA-Canada, and that was a competitive fixture featuring the United States' best squad. I know it was Detroit, but we all know the crowd would have been doubled, if not more, if Mexico had a group stage game there. It's true, and you know it.
There are probably considerably less USMNT fans than there are El Tri fans. If that is not true, then there are certainly more ultra-passionate El Tri fans that would follow their team to the ends of the earth than there are USMNT fans built in the same mold.
This is a great rivalry, but until the fanbases even out and the teams have another couple decades of history behind them, does it really compare to an American football game between Michigan and Ohio State? No, not on your life.
For more on how the two teams got to this point, check out our USA vs. Panama stream and our Mexico vs. Honduras stream. For more updates leading up to USA vs. Mexico, bookmark this StoryStream. For all of our previous Gold Cup coverage, check out the Gold Cup 2011 section. For more on Mexican football, including the Mexican national team, the Mexico vs. USA game, and the Mexican Primera, check out SB Nation's Mexican football blog FMF State Of Mind.