Commentary

The unthinkable: Mexico might abandon Azteca for the Hexagonal

It would be like the New York Yankees leaving Yankee Stadium. Or the Boston Celtics abandoning the Garden. You pick the team and hallowed home.

Mexico might not play at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium in the 2016-17 Hexagonal.

Azteca Stadium -- the Coloso de Santa Ursula -- is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. It hosted the World Cup finals in 1970 and 1986 and has been the home of El Tri (and Club America, Mexico's most powerful club) since its opening in 1966.

Mexico has played in 15 of 20 World Cup finals, and the road to the finals has regularly gone through Azteca. It didn't qualify in 1934, 1974 and 1982 when it didn't have games in the final stage of Concacaf qualifying. It withdrew in 1938, and it was banned for the 1990 finals.

Azteca Stadium regularly draws crowds of 100,000 for soccer matches. The problem: It has not been the fortress it once was.

There was a time when Mexico was invincible at Azteca Stadium. A 2-1 loss to Costa Rica in the 2001 Hexagonal ended a 20-year undefeated streak at Azteca Stadium -- and ended up costing Enrique Meza his job.

El Tri won one of five home games in the 2013 Hexagonal and needed a playoff to get to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Mexico had to settle for a 0-0 tie against Honduras a week ago, its first blemish in the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign after five wins.

Decio de Maria, head of Mexico’s federation, doesn't want another close call like four years ago -- and he certainly doesn't want to have to go through four coaches in three months like El Tri did in 2013 -- so he has suggested that the FMF might move its home base for the 2016-17 Hexagonal.

The key issue: the altitude advantage might no longer exist since many Mexican players are in Europe.

“The issue of where to play always comes down to where one feels most comfortable," said de Maria. "The altitude used to be an advantage for us and now it comes with a cost, given that half the team is coming from sea level.”

Even with Bayer Leverkusen's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez out of the September qualifiers because of a hand injury, eight of the players in Juan Carlos Osorio's roster were based in Europe.

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The likely site if Mexico leaves Azteca for low ground: Monterrey's Estadio BBVA Bancomer, built at a cost of $200 million and opened in 2015.

4 comments about "The unthinkable: Mexico might abandon Azteca for the Hexagonal".
  1. Mark Landefeld, September 14, 2016 at 8:09 p.m.

    El Tri ... welcome to globalization ...

  2. John Soares, September 14, 2016 at 10:45 p.m.

    Sounds like a "poor" excuse for less than favorable results..... USA and others will benefit.

  3. Jeffrey Organ, September 15, 2016 at 9:45 a.m.

    Or course they are moving on. Effective in November, Azteca will become a real" football stadium and the National Football League is the new world superpower. The Mexican government needs to keep it open and the field in pristine condition for when the NFL summons them to host another game.

  4. :: SilverRey :: replied, September 15, 2016 at 6:20 p.m.

    uuggghh...

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