New Mexico United will be playing its FIRST EVER international friendly on July 18 against Cardiff City F.C. at the UNM soccer complex. The hype surrounding this game cannot be overstated, but it is important to clarify what makes this a MUST SEE match. While we can be sure that this will be the first of many international friendly matches for New Mexico United, the opportunity to see a first-class team go head-to-head against our local club is a once-in-a-lifetime chance! For a deeper understanding of exactly why playing Cardiff City F.C. is such an amazing opportunity, consider that, as one of the world's youngest soccer clubs, we will square off on the pitch with one of the oldest and most decorated clubs in the world. Most New Mexico United fans are aware that our club currently plays in the United Soccer League Championship as an expansion team, founded in 2018. What you might not have calculated is that Cardiff City and New Mexico United have an almost 119-year gap between the founding of both clubs.
Cardiff City F.C. was founded in 1899 as a team based out of Cardiff, in the country of Wales within the United Kingdom. This club has played a total of 17 seasons in the English Premier League through either the Premier League or, what was formerly known as the English Football League. Cardiff City F.C. reached its highest ever finish, coming in second place and, to this day, remains the only club outside of England within the UK to have won the Emirates FA Cup, a historic tournament that has previously crowned champions including Manchester United and Liverpool. Cardiff City F.C. also remains one of the only clubs to have won the English Championship and is a household name across Europe. Cardiff City F.C. played its 2018-2019 season in the English Premier League, which is considered by many to be the most difficult and entertaining league competition in the world. Essentially, what this actively illustrates is that our club is playing a team that regularly plays in a league above that of the Major League Soccer (MLS) and of many other Premier European competitions in Italy, Spain, and France.
So, what exactly makes this game such a special occasion for every single New Mexico United fan out there? Whenever you hear about teams coming from Europe to play in the United States, many allude to Real Madrid, Barcelona, or Manchester City playing teams in the MLS or other European teams on American soil. The opportunity for European teams to come to the United States is exceedingly rare now more than ever as many teams go to areas such as the Middle East or China where more sponsorships and higher prizes are located. This only further demonstrates how a team of this caliber choosing to come and play in New Mexico is a remarkably rare opportunity, not only for our state but also for our club. This unique opportunity displays a certain degree of respect that European clubs are beginning to garner for our club. Our jerseys are becoming a common occurrence at international matches across the world, including the Women’s U.S. World Cup this last month.
Moving past the overwhelming historical aspect of this game, look towards one key factor that should have every single New Mexico United fan at this game. For a recent expansion team New Mexico United has broken through every single boundary that has been placed in front of it, not only leading the USL West for a large part of the season but also having defeated two MLS teams on our way to a quarterfinal appearance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a feat accomplished by an expansion team with far fewer assets than the teams it has defeated. Our current record not outstanding, New Mexico United has a very good opportunity to, not only defeat Cardiff City, but to set a precedent for every single expansion team across the country, proving that just because a team may be new, it does not have to miss out on the chance to play premier teams across the country much less the world. Cardiff City F.C. provides a very good test for New Mexico United considering that, in its most recent Premier League match, this European futbol club defeated Manchester United, which is currently the most successful overall team in the British Premier League, by a score of 2-0.
Throughout our short, but expectation-defying history, New Mexico United has shown every other team in our league and throughout the United States that we can and will compete with clubs considered to be better and stronger. Win, lose or draw we already have so much to be proud of for this incredible match. This opportunity to play a team that has beaten previous champions of Europe and the world is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With our recent record against teams in higher leagues than our own, the chances of seeing our own hometown club defeat a team based out of Europe are good. Every single member of our community is a part of this club and has directly contributed to enticing a true European Great to come and play on our home turf. You do not want to miss being one of the fans proudly waving a special edition Cardiff City FC v. NewMexico United scarf overhead while wearing a jersey that sports our local world-renowned art collective, giving the Bluebirds an experience they will never forget.