Wednesday's Morning Sports Report, hosted by the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, brought the region's leaders in the sports community together — including Columbus Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter and President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane. Joined by U.S. Soccer Director of Communications Neil Buethe, the potential for a match between USA and Mexico in the final Hexagonal round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ was raised.
"We've played a lot of games in Columbus for both the men's and women's teams, and we always get great support here," Buethe said. "I think everyone knows when the qualifying schedule comes out and that match versus Mexico at home is released, Columbus is going to be our first call. We've had such great support — such great success — and its a formula that's worked well in the past. It's definitely something we'll be looking into as we get the final schedule for the final round."
With two matches remaining on Sept. 2 and Sept. 6 at St. Vincent and the Grenadines and against Trinidad & Tobago, respectively, before beginning The Hex, there are still several factors to be determined.
With Mexico already having qualified for The Hex atop Group A and the USMNT still within reach of winning Group C (with wins to close out the semifinal round) a potential Hex-opening match could see the two CONCACAF powers face off later this year. If the USA finishes second in its group, it would host Mexico in the fourth game of the round, probably in early 2017.
"It all goes back to the day the stadium was developed," Loughnane said. "Very early in the stadium's existence, U.S. Soccer chose MAPFRE Stadium as its unofficial home and the stadium has produced a winning tradition and home field advantage that is unmatched in our sport. It's special that we have that relationship with U.S. Soccer, and presuming the U.S. qualifies, we anticipate being able to return that event to Columbus as early as November of this year."
MAPFRE Stadium has hosted some of the USMNT's most memorable matches while offering an unmatched home-field advantage for the Americans. Since opening in 1999, the USMNT has gone 7-0-3 all-time and 6-0-2 in eight World Cup Qualifying matches in Columbus. The home of Crew SC has hosted four consecutive World Cup Qualifiers against CONCACAF and North American rivals, Mexico, each finishing with the legendary Dos a Cero final score.
The first statement in the Dos a Cero series came on a cold Feb. 28, 2001. An injury to former Crew SC striker Brian McBride allowed current Crew SC Assistant Coach Josh Wolff to notch the game-winning goal in the first half before assisting on Earnie Stewart's 87th minute goal. On Sept. 3, 2005, a pair of second-half goals by Oguchi Onyewu and DaMarcus Beasley cemented another 2-0 victory. A stormy Feb. 11, 2009 set the stage for Onyewu and Michael Bradley to bury a goal apiece in the third straight Dos a Cero at MAPFRE Stadium. Finally, on Sept. 10, 2013, goals by Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan — and a convenient penalty-kick miss by Clint Dempsey — cemented the trend.
All in all, MAPFRE Stadium has hosted 11 USMNT matches since 2000. During the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup, MAPFRE Stadium hosted six matches over eight days — including the USWNT's 3-0 win over North Korea in Group A play.
MAPFRE Stadium will host the USWNT in their first match following the 2016 Olympics in Rio as they face Thailand for the first time.