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Why you should root for Mexico in the World Cup

You don’t need to swab your cheek to pick a team to follow.

So your team didn’t make the World Cup. You’re in good company - only 32 of the 195 countries on this planet are playing in the tournament. Historical powers like Italy as well as continental powers like Chile and yes, the United States, are on the outside looking in.

You can lie to yourself and say you’re not going to watch, but we all know you’re still going to follow, just happening to find yourself in the same place when a game is on. Since you’re going to watch anyway, you should pick a team to root for.

Don’t pick everyone’s favorite dark horse Iceland. Don’t be a front-runner, picking Argentina until they’re ousted before quickly switching to Germany or France. Pick Mexico.

If you’re in the United States, you will undoubtedly hear hand-wringing and angry chest-thumping about not rooting for your most hated rival. While Mexico is a rival on the field, off of the field our countries are entangled so deep throughout history that no amout of xenophobia masquerading as patriotism can erase it. The western half of the United States was Mexican territory, and it was only 165 years ago with the Gadsden Purchase of what is now southern Arizona and New Mexico did the US-Mexican border take its current shape. Mexicans have contributed and continue to contribute to American society in every corner of the nation and in every facet. The story of American history is incomplete without the intertwined history of Mexico.

Politics and schadenfreude aside, there are soccer-related reasons to don the colors of El Tri this summer. A rising tide lifts all boats, and Mexico bombing out in the first round won’t make the US any better - in fact it could hurt their international standing if Mexico leaves disgraced. Mexico is inarguably the best team in Concacaf right now, and if the best team gets blown out in the first round then what does that say about the rest of the teams? The USA’s stock will sink even further if Mexico loses big.

Mexico is the most popular national team in the United States, and its domestic league is also the most watched in the United States as well. More than 2 million people in the United States tuned in for the Liga MX final match between Toluca and Santos, while 1.8 million tuned in for the Mexico vs. Wales friendly. Only the UEFA Champions Leauge final between Real Madrid and Liverpool outdrew those matches, with 3 million people watching, the caveat being that the UEFA match was broadcast in English and Spanish, with the Liga MX and Mexico matches only being shown in Spanish.

Mexico is also a fun team to watch, and chances are you’ve seen their players in other leagues. If you’re a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid or Leo Messi and Barcelona, you’ve seen their teams play against Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Miguel Layún (Sevilla), Jesús Gallardo (Getafe), and Andrés Guardado (Real Betis). A Christian Pulisic fan? Dortmund plays against Eintracht Frankfurt and Marco Fabián and Carlos Salcedo. England has Javier “Chicharito” Hernández at West Ham (and the recently added Raúl Jiménez at Wolves) and the MLS has Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos with the LA Galaxy and Carlos Vela at Los Angeles FC.

What about “The Chant”? It sucks and is indefensible, full stop. The Mexican Federation is working to stop fans from doing it, and El Tri Supporters‘ Group Pancho Villas Army and their 5,000 or so members are actively working to stamp it out as well. It’s still a work in progress, and could always use a few allies such as yourself.

The United States is also going to host the 2026 World Cup with our neighbors in Mexico and Canada. The joint North American bid beat out Morocco to host things eight years from now, however it wasn’t a certainty that this bid would succeed. The major hangup with FIFA for the North American bid wasn’t Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it was United States President Donald Trump that was seen as a major hurdle for a lot of voters. Morocco are no angels, with their questionable human rights record with regards to freedom of expression and protest, LGBT rights, and the rights of women and girls among others. That said, the United States also came under scrutiny for its treatment of both its citizens of color by the police as well as its treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers. And while Mexico has its own very real issues with violence (fueled largely thanks to the unquenchable American appetite for drugs), the President of the United States having to promise FIFA to ease a ban on Muslims entering the country is pretty damning.

Whatever your reason, rooting for Mexico will be a fun journey regardless of how they do in the World Cup. ¡Vamos México!