SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The crowds began arriving early for Tuesday night’s big soccer match between the men’s national teams of Mexico and Colombia. A traffic advisory has been issued for the streets around Levi’s Stadium. About 60,000 fans are expected at Levi’s Stadium for Tuesday’s match. And while this game is considered a "friendly" – meaning it does not count in the rankings for either team – the fans are still thrilled to be here.
To say fans are enthusiastic may be an understatement. Soccer – or fútbol as it is called in the rest of the world – has an international draw that maybe only the NFL can match here at home. So when the men’s national teams from Mexico and Columbia scheduled a match here at Levi’s Stadium many fans literally dropped everything to be here. "I came all the way from Aurora, Colorado," said fan Manuel Rodrguez, who drove all the way from Colorado to attend both of the games the Mexican team is playing in California. Another group made the trek from Mexico and they were also here when the Mexican national team previously played here.
Plenty of sidewalk vendors were whipping up traditional food and selling flags from both countries. "Tell me why you came from Washington – it is a long way. I come to see the team, my favorite team, Mexico," said a fan named Alex. When the gates finally opened at 1:30 the celebration was on. Some fans had been waiting here for several hours. "What time did you get here. I got here at 11:30. Why 7 and a half hours early? It is a nice atmosphere here…and we are rooting for Mexico," said another fan.
But one thing that was quite apparent especially for fans of the Colombian team. "So you do seem a bit outnumbered I have to say? Oh yeah definitely, definitely. This is like two hundred by one," said Colombian team fan Felipe Pena, who is from San Jose. Last weekend Mexico played Peru at the Rose Bowl and then traveled here to Santa Clara as it gears up for a run at the FIFA World Cup starting in November.
In the latest FIFA rankings Mexico is the number 12 ranked international men’s soccer team and Colombia checks in at 17 in the world. But for fans of the Mexican team there is a term of both hope and frustration – "quinto partido." The team has been unable to get to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the past seven consecutive FIFA tournaments. "They never have been able to play the 5th game. They always lose, they always lose. You know that is the first thing they are going to do. It is like your goal – then after that we will see what is coming,’ said fan Ramon Martinez.
The game also marks a big milestone for Levi’s Stadium. This will be the first international soccer match since the stadium was named a host venue for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The game gets underway here tonight at 7 p.m.