El Tri also routinely plays friendly games in the United States — in front of very friendly crowds. Indeed, often these matches take places in football stadiums to accommodate the massive turnout. This past March, Mexico played Croatia before almost 80,000 fans in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium; a few days later, the team drew nearly 70,000 fans for a match against Iceland at the San Francisco 49ers' home field in California.
Doing this makes sense for the Mexican soccer federation — Pew estimates that there are around 36 million people of Mexican origin in the United States. If you include all Latinos, the number balloons to 58 million. In 2016, we composed 18 percent of the American population, and were the second-largest racial or ethnic group behind white people.
The support for Mexico is so strong in the U.S. that the American national men’s team prefers to play Mexico in a place like my old hometown of Columbus, Ohio — Ohio is one of the few places where the U.S. men can enjoy some semblance of home-field advantage. For Mexico, a stadium like the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California — as hallowed an American football stadium as you'll find — is practically a second home. They've beaten the United States in every game played there since 1994.
The imprecations tossed against Latinos like me take on an air of desperation. America is changing, just as it always does.
In this context, the imprecations tossed against Latinos like me take on an air of desperation. America is changing, just as it always does. President Donald Trump, and the people who support him, fear that change, and that fear buttresses their hate.
But there's nothing to fear. America cannot help but change; that's its genius. The greatness of this country can’t be found in some mythic past but rather in the people — people like me — who live here now. I wear the green and white of Mexico's national team proudly while cheering for them on the soccer field, but I’ve also fought, just as proudly, under the red, white and blue flag of America’s army.
Ultimately, rooting for Mexico this summer is both an act of defiance and an act of patriotism. It is America that taught me about the importance of tolerance and diversity in the first place. Ultimately, I have learned that despite what the Trump administration may imply, I don’t have to choose a side; I can embrace both my Latino past and my American present — just as our two nations have always embraced each other, however fraught that embrace may be.
Rafael Noboa y Rivera is a freelance writer living in New York City. His work has been published in the Guardian, the Washington Post, Deadspin, SBNation and elsewhere.