Me, I didn't think it would actually happen, because why would CONCACAF risk the US-Mexico games?
But, like Social Distortion, I was wrong. I didn't follow the money. Mexico will get similar numbers for Azteca qualifiers no matter who the opponent is. So more home qualifying games means more cash - whether the United States is one of the teams who have to breathe the methane atmosphere is beside the point.
(Flame war bait: we'll see whether Fortress Azteca starts to see more home team losses with more qualifying games, but it now looks much more likely that the United States will not be one of those victorious visitors. I'm not saying that was a factor in Mexico agreeing to this decision, but it's what I would do if I were running a team that had an unblemished record against an improving rival.)
Why did the United States agree? To screw over Columbus fans.
The other reason US-Mexico games didn't make THAT much money is that one of the biggest games in the Hex was scheduled for one of the smaller stadiums. This was entirely right and proper, because the US always won there, and in the last decade a near-certain win plus a certain pro-US crowd of over 20,000 was more than enough reason to put the game in Columbus Crew Stadium.
And if Mexico was concerned about losing a game to the United States at home in qualifying, well, let's face it, Mexico was at least as likely to break through the 2-0 curse in qualifying. Mexico and the United States have been pretty much identical in qualifying results since 1997 - well, for practical purposes, since 1981.
But now the sport - at least, the US men's national team - can reasonably plan for 30,000 fans at minimum in most cities in the land. The only reason to have a qualifier in Columbus was to guarantee a win against the strongest rival...and this new plan offered the US a way out.
So the US and Mexico were offered a plan that was cowardly and profitable. The result should have been predictable. Fear of losing trumps hope of winning, especially in anything connected to the World Cup, so it's easy to see why the US and Mexico agreed to appoint themselves two kings, Tenacious D-style. To quote Jay Hanna, nothing is lost save honor.
Plus, now Landon Donovan won't have to dodge refuse on corner kicks, and Mexico won't freeze their asses off. "Win-win" was made for situations like this.
But, um, so much for your automatic big ticket qualifier, Columbus. You had a great run in the turn of the millennium, but money talks. Maybe you'll get a game against Aruba or something.
(Then again, maybe not. There was an early round game against Grenada one cycle, and attendance was so sparse for a US home game, you would have thought it was at the Home Depot Center.)
So why on earth would Hunt Sports Group agree on the derelevantizing of their stadium? Soccer United Marketing. I'm not privy to any HSG accounts or nothin', but I would be shocked if what the Hunt group got much less from a Jack Warner kickback - er, I mean, World Cup qualifier - at their own stadium than they would from a sold-out friendly in Reliant, or Jerry Jones Stadium, or the Rose Bowl, or New Meadowlands, or...wow, Columbus fans were really swimming against the tide of history here, weren't they?
Let's assume Mexico and the United States both win their groups. How easy would it be to schedule a couple of friendlies and bill it as the unofficial North American championship?
Not that SUM would even need to do that. Contrary to what Ives seems to believe, the US-Mexico rivalry is in about as much danger as, say, the rivalries between England-Germany or England-Scotland or England-Ireland or Germany-Holland or Germany-Poland or Serbia-Croatia. Some matches sell themselves. As long as the federations are buddy-buddy and the players and fans hate each other, this rivalry has a glorious and prosperous future.
Which is the way it should be. The only thing I would change is that any US fan who runs any "mow my lawn" smack gets his right hand chopped off.
(Oh, I forgot to tell you - I'm going to run for USSF president next cycle, and I plan to impose shari'a law.)