GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 19: Players of Mexico greet fans after 2023 Continental Clasico between Mexico and United States at State Farm Stadium on April 19, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. | Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

Mexico fans could be heard chanting the homophobic “puto” multiple times in the waning minutes of the Wednesday night match between Mexico and the United States. And US Soccer did not follow its own protocol in response to it.

Because many of its fans couldn’t help themselves, Mexico now faces a potential two-year ban from playing matches in the United States. US Soccer also faces the potential of banning itself from hosting any international friendly for the next two years, as that is its own stated policy.

While the prevalence of the chant has slowed, neither US Soccer nor the FMF have been able to stop the chant using previous tactics. Will they have the guts to raise the stakes?

US Soccer made clear before the game — to Outsports and others — that they would be following their own policy 521-2, which calls for a two-year ban from competing in the U.S. if a visiting country’s fans chant a discriminatory slur — in this case “puto” — en masse.

That is what happened on Wednesday. A fan at the match reported to Outsports that the chant was heard throughout the stadium at least twice. Various people on Twitter said they heard it. It was also audible at least twice through the television broadcast.

The in-match policy of US Soccer — that it reiterated on Wednesday — requires, on the first instance of the chant, “Interruption of the game by referee for two minutes, accompanied by PA announcement. All players report to center circle of the pitch.”

That did not happen.

US Soccer may unfortunately hide behind the fact that, well, it only happened a couple times, and it wasn’t until the end of the match, so we’re going to let this one slide.

Yet everyone with knowledge of the situation knew this is exactly what would happen: The fans would wait until those final minutes, boom it through the stadium, and dare US Soccer to pause a match in its 88th minute.

The chanting fans won. Again.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s a situation I personally raised with US Soccer ahead of the match.

To be sure, this is better than it used to be, when the chant happened even louder multiple times throughout the match. It has even popped up during NFL games in Mexico.

Outsports has been reporting on this issue since 2014 — nearly a decade. And it’s been going on longer than that.

Yes, it’s less common. And yes, people are more aware of it.

Yes, it’s still happening. And yes, organizations keep finding excuses to ignore their own rules and give the rule-breakers a break.

There is a caveat to the potential ban for Mexico. El Tri would not be barred from matches that are sanctioned by FIFA or CONCACAF.

Mexico is next scheduled to play in the United States in Las Vegas on June 15, where they will face the USMNT in a CONCACAF Nations League semifinal. The Mexico fans will again likely wait until the final minutes of the match and chant the homophobic slur. Again.

However, if US Soccer follows its own policy, Mexico would be barred from participating in any friendlies hosted by US Soccer or anyone else in the United States until 2025.

It’s now up to US Soccer to let everyone know how serious their own policy is. Banning Mexico from playing in the USA for two years, and banning itself from hosting friendlies for that same period, would send a clear message to organizations and, maybe even more importantly, fans.