The common tagline heading into tomorrow night’s CONCACAF Champions League final opener is that Toronto FC have now beaten “the best team in Mexico and the most successful team in Mexico,” and now only “the most popular team in Mexico” stands in their way.
Fair enough. Tigres are the most recent champions, and probably the most expensive side in Liga MX. Club América have a ton of history behind them, with seven continental championships and 12 domestic league titles to speak of. Up next is Club Deportivo Guadalajara, better known as Chivas (Spanish for “goats”).
If Club América are the most well-known Mexican side internationally (perhaps because they play at the Azteca), then Chivas are the domestic sweetheart. They’re beloved in Mexico, and they might actually be the most popular team in the U.S. because of the massive Spanish-speaking population. Apparently, Chivas accounts for more than 44% of soccer fans in Mexico.
They were founded in 1906, making them just 39 years younger than Canada. Two years later, after starting out with a fairly international (mostly French) cast of players, the club’s founder decided that, from then on, they should only ever field Mexican players (I’m sure that’s music to the ears of a lot of you complaining that TFC don’t play enough Canadians).
Even today, every single member of Chivas’ first team is Mexican. The club’s system has produced a lot of the world’s top Mexican talent, including Javier Hernandez and LAFC star Carlos Vela.
By my count, 11 players on the 23-man Chivas first team listed on Wikipedia have a cap with the Mexican senior national team. A further handful have represented Mexico at various youth levels.
Basically, there’s a reason MLS chose to name a team Chivas USA. There’s a reason this team has played recent games in Seattle and New Jersey, in which more than half the crowd has been vocally supporting them. There are more people of Mexican descent in the United States than there are people in Canada, and a whole damn lot of them support Chivas.
There are even members of Toronto FC with a Chivas background. Marky Delgado, for instance, told Oliver Platt about his memories of Guadalajara’s 2006 Liga MX championship, since his father was a huge Chivas fan.
Guadalajara does have a winning pedigree, make no mistake. They’re 16th in Liga MX at the moment, but they have 12 league titles in their history (the same as América). They also made the final of the 2010 Copa Libertadores, losing 5-3 on aggregate to Brazilian side Internacional.
Tomorrow, Toronto FC take on the pride of Mexico. They’ve already taken down two tremendous giants, but defeating Chivas would truly strike at the hearts of millions of fans.