The United States and Mexico clash here Saturday in a winner-takes-all shoot-out for a place at the 2017 Confederations Cup with US coach Jurgen Klinsmann facing arguably the biggest test of his four-year reign.
A sell-out crowd of more than 92,000 is expected to cram into the vast expanse of the Pasadena Rose Bowl for the latest instalment of the fierce rivalry between the North American heavyweights.
A play-off to determine the CONCACAF region's representative at the Confederations Cup in Russia in two year's time was ordered after the United States won the 2013 Gold Cup and Mexico lifted the 2015 edition.
The United States' failure to win this year's Gold Cup on home soil, where they were stunned by Jamaica in the semi-finals, and a 4-1 friendly thrashing by Brazil last month, left Klinsmann's critics sharpening their lives.
Former captain Landon Donovan, who has had an uneasy relationship with Klinsmann, told ESPN this week the German legend should be fired in the event of an American defeat to Mexico on Saturday.
"We had a very poor summer with bad results in the Gold Cup," said Donovan, who was famously omitted by Klinsmann from the US squad for last year's World Cup.
"The last game against Brazil was probably the worst game I've seen them play under Jurgen ... Anywhere else in the world, if this coach had those results, and they lose this game against Mexico, they'd be fired."
Donovan's comments echoed widespread calls for Klinsmann's position to be reviewed after the Gold Cup failure in June.
- Nightmare scenario? -
Yet many however believe his job is unlikely to be at risk, even if the nightmare scenario of a Mexico victory unfolds on Saturday.
The former Germany striker has a contract until 2018 and so far US Soccer Federation chief Sunil Gulati has made it plain he sees Klinsmann as a long-term appointment.
"We don't make judgements based on one game," Gulati said in July after the Gold Cup exit.Klinsmann meanwhile has shown no sign of being rattled, bullishly declaring in a recent interview that he fully expects an American victory.
"I'm very confident about it," Klinsmann told ESPN. "With all the respect to the Mexican team -- there's no doubt that they have a lot of quality -- I'm confident that if our group sticks together and works with a tremendous amount of energy and chemistry, we're going to beat them."
For Klinsmann's players, Saturday represents an opportunity to avenge their shattering 2011 defeat to Mexico at the same venue in the final of the Gold Cup, when they squandered a 2-0 lead before crashing 4-2.
US skipper Michael Bradley, a veteran of that defeat, admitted the loss still weighed heavily on the players who experienced it.
"Any time you lose a final, you don't forget that quickly," Bradley told ussoccer.com.
"And when you have to watch your big rival lift a trophy, that stays with you."
Bradley meanwhile urged his team to savour the prospect of another titanic battle with Mexico in what is expected to be a highly charged atmosphere.
"Games against Mexico don't come around every day," Bradley said.
"Games against Mexico that have so much on the line don’t either ... the atmosphere is going to be amazing."