Chivas de Guadalajara will return to California this weekend to face Liga MX rival Club León this Saturday at the StubHub Center, home of Giovani Dos Santos and the LA Galaxy. The game is the final stop in the Tecate-sponsored Summer Of Soccer tour of the U.S., where the team competed against Pachuca, Atlas, and Monterrey earlier this summer during Liga MX’s pre-season.
This final friendly game, scheduled to take advantage of Liga MX’s break during El Tri’s FIFA schedule, sets up an interesting match between the two. Chivas, one of Mexico’s most well-known and popular soccer teams, currently sits at the lower half of the table and continues to play under threat of relegation to the Ascenso MX, the country’s second division.
Meanwhile, León continues to dominate the league as its 3-1 victory over Toluca on Sunday shot them past Pumas and America on the league table to put them in clear first place. León and their fans know very well what Chivas and their fans are facing. León fell to the Ascenso in 2002 and didn’t return to Liga MX until 2012, when they broke records by winning a bicampeonato soon after.
“I think Chivas will be okay,” says Cesar Hernández, a writer at ESPN FC and lifelong Chivas fan. “It’s a talking point right now because of their recent spots near or at the bottom of the relegation table.”
His words, like those of other like-minded pundits, aren’t exactly comforting to fans such as Maria Martínez from Orange County, who will be at the friendly match this weekend to support Chivas. “I’ve seen this club at some low points in the past decade, but this is a precarious position, and relegation is a fear that becomes a little more real week after week. It’s demoralizing seeing a club with this much importance putting on performances so mediocre.”
Wiso Vazquez, lifelong León fan and founder/football pundit of Fut Mex Source, knows the feeling too well. He saw his beloved León fall in 2002 following a run of poor results. What made matters worse was that he and all other León fans were unable to keep up with their team during their time in the Ascenso due to the league’s lack of international television contracts, which Liga MX teams enjoy.
“Of course, it was devastating for a club like León to be relegated,” he recalls. “As a fan, you definitely get disconnected from the team, since you can’t see them on a regular basis, especially if you are in the U.S.”
That disconnect with one’s favorite team is one of Martinez’s main concerns with relegation. Chivas is more than just a team for her, as her support for the team also became a way for her to connect with her father when she was younger, who is originally from Pihuamo, Jalisco.
“Once I became a more involved fan and I learned more about the sport and the club, I started noticing how much the club meant to my father,” she explains. “He would call home during every clásico and he would always tell me stories of the few times he went to el Estadio Jalisco when he was younger. As I got older, I realized that this team was one of the few things he had left from home.”
Cynics will say that these types of games are nothing but desperate money-grabs (and they do pull in a ton of cash, don’t get me wrong) but clearly, the games do mean something special to the fans who attend, even if the final match result is meaningless in the larger scheme of things.
“I went to a León vs. Atlas friendly a couple of months ago in San Jose where the cheapest tickets were $35,” recalls Hernández. “Not a sold out match, but the atmosphere was so impressive for a friendly.”
For Martinez’s part, she’ll be able to live out her own Chivas experience in the U.S. to share with her father. “They give us a chance at having access to the team we love so. For that I appreciate them. U.S. fans are as passionate as Mexican fans are,” she says.
Kickoff time for the Chivas/León match is scheduled at 7:30 p.m., with the Fan Zone Experience set to begin at 5 p.m. with special guests Claudio Suárez and Ramón Ramírez in attendance to sign autographs.
We also have five pairs of tickets to give away for the game. Enter for your chance to win below: