2018 World Cup: Will sport trump politics in US-Mexico qualifier?

    US captain Michael Bradley says there is an "added layer" of intrigue for the game against Mexico.

    Story highlights

    • US faces Mexico in Ohio on Friday
    • President-elect Trump has upset Mexicans
    • Fixture has a volatile history

    (CNN)The final whistle has blown on one of the most bitterly-fought US presidential campaigns -- now one of international soccer's fiercest rivalries is about to kick off.

    Donald Trump's unexpected elevation to President-elect came just days before the US men's national team's World Cup qualifier against Mexico.
      Trump set the tone for his campaign when he announced last year he would "build a great wall" on the border with Mexico and that "I will have Mexico pay for that wall."
      He also called Mexican immigrants rapists, criminals and drug addicts, and said they should be deported from the US.
      USMNT captain Michael Bradley didn't duck the question when he was asked if Friday's match in Columbus, Ohio, had taken on added significance.
      "I certainly think given the way everything has gone the last few months, there's an added layer to this game," Bradley told reporters.
      "I would hope our fans do what they always do, which is support our team in the best, most passionate way possible. I would hope they give every person in that stadium the respect they deserve, whether they are American, Mexican, neutral.
      "I hope every person that comes to the stadium comes ready to enjoy what we all want to be a beautiful game between two sporting rivals that have a lot of respect for each other."
      Last year, in the buildup to a Confederations Cup playoff clash between the two sides, Mexican broadcaster TV Azteca released an advert using Trump's vilifying language to poke fun at the USMNT, portraying its own nation as the dominant footballing force.
      But US goalkeeper Tim Howard -- who said he didn't vote in the election -- said this week that politics will take a backseat for the game.
      "They're going to be excited for hopefully a US win," he told reporters. "It's politics and this is football. Mexico is going to try and kick our asses and we're going to try and kick theirs. It's got nothing to do with politics."

      'The Hex'

      The two nations share a fiery rivalry, having met 66 times since 1934.
      Mexico, which has a greater football history, dominated for decades but the tide has turned in recent years as more Americans have embraced the game.
      While Mexico has 34 wins to 14, 13 of those US victories have come since 2000.
      Mexico fans with a banner reading "the giant is not dead" during a 2005 World Cup qualifier.
      "We have always prided ourselves on the fact that playing against (Mexico) brings out the best in us," Bradley said in an interview for the USMNT. "We have guys who live to play in these types of games.
      "History shows that the team that wins is the team that has more guys who embrace the magnitude of the game, and are able to make some big plays when it counts.
      "There is an aura, a mystique, and I think there is a real understanding from every guy that's here that this is a special place for us and that these games against Mexico are different. You'll see a group on Friday night that plays in a way that reflects that."
      The CONCACAF tournament has reached its final stage: A six-team pool nicknamed "The Hex" which this year features the US, Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago.
      The top three teams qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while the fourth-placed nation enters a playoff with the fifth-placed finisher in the Asian qualifiers.

      Checkered past

      The US-Mexico fixture hasn't been short of controversial incidents.
      After a qualifier for the 2010 World Cup, Mexico's assistant coach Francisco Ramirez slapped US defender Frankie Hejduk in the face. In 2007, goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez tried to trip Eddie Johnson after Landon Donovan had given the US a 2-0 lead.
      US players celebrate beating Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup final.
      During the 2002 World Cup, Rafa Marquez received a four-match ban for a head-butt on Cobi Jones, and in 1997 Ramon Ramirez landed Alexi Lalas with a blow square in the groin.
      Fans have also sparked controversy. Last year, 34 arrests were made in Mexico's 3-2 victory at the Rose Bowl in California.
      In past editions of this fixture, anti-Mexican signs have been aired by American supporters, while Mexico fans have reportedly booed the American national anthem and chanted the name of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.