The U.S. Soccer Federation issued a statement on Thursday in which it said it has received assurances from Mexico Football Federation (FMF) officials that fans, teams and players will "safely experience" the upcoming World Cup qualifier at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on March 24.
The statement was issued in response to the violence that took place at last Saturday's Liga MX match between Queretaro and Atlas. The match at Queretaro's Estadio Corregidora was suspended in the 62nd minute after multiple fights broke out in the stands. Security personnel opened the gates to the field so that fans, including women and children, could escape the clashes.
An official statement from Queretaro Governor Mauricio Kuri said that 26 people in total required medical attention, 24 men and two women, from the incident. No deaths were reported, though there have been 14 arrests. As of Thursday, ESPN Mexico reported that two people were still hospitalized.
In its statement, the USSF said, "As we prepare for our upcoming World Cup Qualifier against Mexico at Estadio Azteca on March 24, we want to pause to express our thoughts over the unbearable and horrific tragedy that occurred at a league match in Queretaro this past weekend.
"U.S. Soccer has spoken to Mexican Football Federation officials, who have assured us that the U.S. and Mexican fans, teams and players alike will safely experience one of the world's biggest national team rivalries in sports, as has been the case at Estadio Azteca for past matches."
The USSF added that the timing of the announcement was due to a desire to wait for the usual pre-match meeting between the two federations as well as U.S. Embassy staff in Mexico City to take place. The USSF indicated that the issue of security was high on the meeting's agenda.
The timing of the statement was also influenced by the weighted random draw for U.S. fans to have a chance to purchase tickets. That will end on Friday, and the USSF felt it was important that fans hear from the Federation prior to making a decision on accepting the opportunity to attend the match.
The USSF also said in its statement that, "We feel strongly that the pain resulting from the heartbreaking violence at Estadio Corregidora is not Mexico's alone to bear. While we are opponents on the field of play, it's important to remember that soccer is a global community, and our bond transcends rivalries, competition and results. Our thoughts are with the fans and families affected, and we stand by to support our friends in Mexico within the game and beyond."
At a meeting on Tuesday between Liga MX and FMF officials, the punishments for Queretaro were laid out. The club will have to play home matches with no fans for one year, and Queretaro's ownership has been given back to the previous administration under Grupo Caliente. Grupo Caliente have until the end of the year to sell Queretaro, and if they are unable to do so, the team will go under the ownership of Liga MX. In addition, Queretaro's supporters groups known as barras will be banned from home matches for three years.