The history of USA vs. Mexico at MAPFRE (nee Crew) Stadium is well known by now. It’s evolved into legend how Columbus served as the first true American outpost of soccer for the U.S. National Team. A big win over the best team in the region, setting the stage for a decade of dominance will do that. But... it certainly wasn’t preordained that Columbus would be the spiritual home of what’s now known as DosACero as an article in the New York Times highlights.
In 2001, MAPFRE was the only major soccer specific stadium in America, built far from the coasts where the U.S. had previously played Mexico to scant home support. It may seem obvious in hindsight, but America hadn’t embraced the National Team the way they had in the last decade. There was solid support, but it was well behind Mexico stateside. Qualifiers played in L.A. or the Boston area were anything but home games.
The then General Manager of the Crew Jim Smith didn’t have a soccer background and he certainly struggled with the finer points of the game at times, but he did know how to sell and could recognize an opportunity, give the U.S. a true home field advantage so he came up with a plan in November 2000 to host the key qualifier the following February and convinced the owner Lamar Hunt to buy in.
Within the space of three months the idea sprung from a scrap of paper and was turned into a nearly 25,000 strong sell-out reality. A little help from a cold snap and a decisive performance from the Americans cemented the start of something special.
The growth of soccer means that the U.S. National Team has home field advantage beyond the friendly confines of MAPFRE. Seattle, Portland, and Kansas City have recently packed the house for the Red, White, and Blue. It was bound to happen, but it took the right building at the right time against the right opponent to turn into something special.