COLUMBUS, Ohio — To find one of the world’s great international soccer rivalries, one must travel to the heart of the Buckeye State, ride along Interstate 71, past the state fairgrounds and, if you choose to take the back entrance, wind around Frisch’s Big Boy and Lowe’s.

There sits Mapfre Stadium, formerly Columbus Crew Stadium, where, on a quadrennial schedule since 2001, the U.S. and Mexican national teams have clashed in a World Cup qualifier.

Capacity is less than 25,000. Many fans will watch from metal bleachers. The private boxes are barely private. It is, by American stadium standards, a bare-bones, no-frills venue.

The occasion would seem to demand a high-end stage, but the little stadium has become an almost-permanent location for the program’s biggest home match.

The teams will renew their bitter rivalry Friday, the first game for each on an 11-month odyssey during the six-nation final round of qualifying. Three countries will punch tickets to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and a fourth will have to pass through a playoff against an Asian side.

The Americans aim to collect three points on every home date – and gain a few on the road – to secure an eighth straight World Cup berth. But the match that stirs emotions like no other and attracts the most attention is the home game against Mexico.

Once the Americans escaped the previous round and learned the date of the Mexico showdown, the U.S. Soccer Federation began finalizing plans for Columbus. No other venue was seriously considered.

“It should always be here,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “This is where it belongs. We finally got that in our back pocket, a place that we feel comfortable. We feel at home.”

The United States has hosted Mexico in four previous qualifiers here. All ended in 2-0 victories. Accordingly, a slogan was born: “Dos a Cero.”