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June 10th, 2010
10:05 AM ET

The U.S. national team is the national team of Americans... except when it isn’t.

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

The U.S. national team is the national team of Americans . . . except when it isn’t.

The U.S. national team is the national team of Americans . . . except when it isn’t.

I often wear football jerseys to my kids’ games. The shirt might be from a professional club – perhaps Reading FC in England, the Chicago Fire from Major League Soccer, Maccabi Haifa from Israel or maybe Real Madrid or Barcelona in Spain. It might represent a country – such as Mexico or Jordan or Belarus or France.

Looking around the fields I’m hardly alone. I see jerseys representing a myriad of national and professional teams from around the world. Their variety is testimony to the mosaic that is the American population.

The United States may be a melting-pot; becoming even more so in this century, as marriages between people of differing races and ethnicities increase. But when it comes to football (aka soccer) the pieces of the mosaic have defined edges. The U.S. national team is the national team of Americans... except when it isn’t.

The primary case in point is the Mexican national team. The roughly 31 million Americans of Mexican descent make up 12.5 percent of the total U.S. population and two-thirds of the Latino population. Fans of El Tri, as the Mexican side is known, are passionate about their football.

"I follow Mexico, I root for Mexico, Mexico is my team," Hugo Rodriguez, a 23-year-old UCLA graduate student from Inglewood, Calif., a son of Mexican immigrants, told the Wall Street Journal.

“The passion that Hispanics, and Mexicans in particular, have for soccer can’t be matched by anything else,” Georgiana Flores, director of multicultural marketing and sponsorship for Allstate insurance, a sponsor of the Mexican team in the U.S., told The New York Times.

The U.S. roster for the World Cup includes players of Mexican descent, including forward Hercules Gomez from Las Vegas, Nevada, and midfielder Jose Torres from Longview, Texas. They may wear red, white and blue for country, but both play for pay in Mexico; Torres at Pachuca and Gomez at Puebla, where this season he tied for the scoring title, believed to be the first time for an American playing in a foreign league.

“Home team” during the World Cup will mean something different for at least a portion of the estimated 800,000 Honduran-Americans, the nearly 1.5 million Korean-Americans (both South and North Korea qualified) and the 15.6 million Italian-Americans.

And don’t even start me on the expatriate English in the U.S., including those here at CNN. I may watch Saturday’s U.S.-England game with a few of them – if they don’t mind my U.S. scarf and shirt.


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