IRVINE, Calif. -- History tells us that there is no correlation between qualifying for a Confederations Cup and having success at the main event, the World Cup, 12 months later. But U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has identified participation in 2017's dress rehearsal as a key part of preparation for Russia 2018, one reason the Americans are bent on beating Mexico in Saturday's high-profile CONCACAF Cup and booking their place in that tournament.
The eyes of American soccer are turned toward Saturday's high-stakes CONCACAF Cup between the U.S. and Mexico. But just hours before the border rivals play for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup, the U.S. under-23 squad and its band of future senior-teamers will take on Honduras in the semifinals of CONCACAF's under-23 championship for a spot in next summer's Olympics.
The young Yanks cruised in the first round, winning Group A as a result of beating Canada, Cuba and Panama by a combined score of 13-2. And while Saturday's match isn't exactly a must-win --the two semifinal losers will face off with the victor facing South American runner-up Colombia for a ticket to the Games -- it represents their best chance to reach Rio de Janeiro (Mexico plays Canada in the other semifinal match).
As the results so far would suggest, there were plenty of impressive performances from the Americans in the group stage. But if the tournament hosts are to accomplish their ultimate goal in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday (kickoff is at 3 p.m. ET; the match will be broadcast on Spanish-language network Telemundo), they will do so largely on the strength of the following five blue-chippers who have excelled so far and are locks to start against the Catrachos.
The U.S.-Mexico soccer rivalry goes back to 1934, when the two sides first met. Though the Americans won that inaugural match, 4-2, with all four goals scored by Aldo "Buff" Donelli, they went nearly half a century without another victory, and it wasn't until the 1990s that things became much more evenly matched.
Here are some notable -- and notorious -- highlights from the history books. Which side will get to write a happy chapter on October 10?