Club Tijuana fans cheer on Sunday during a 3-1 home loss to Santos Laguna, but they’re mainly just happy to have a team in the highest echelon of Mexican futbol (Photo courtesy Club Tijuana).
There is no doubt that Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente has aspirations of drawing Americans soccer fans over the border and giving MLS a run for its money in this part of the world.
The effort is in its nascent stages in terms of marketing and reaching out to fans.
I’m told, for instance, that there are chartered buses Southern California residents can take to games; I’ve discovered finding out the details of these trips is a little more challenging (so if anyone knows let me know).
Seeing a game in Tijuana is a completely different cultural experience from one at Home Depot Center – not necessarily better, IMHO, despite the comments of fans in the column. But it’s more than simply seeing a sporting event and something MLS could learn from.
It helps too that the city is seeing something of a renaissance culturally including an influx of gourmet restaurants and well-known chefs, a friend who grew up in the city and accompanied me on the trip observed. Crime is way down as well, with the drug violence plaguing some parts of Mexico having moved elsewhere in comparison to a few years ago.
During prohibition the city was the place for Americans to party, especially at the horse racing track the soccer stadium is now built on in part. Now, 80 or so years later, American soccer fans have another excuse to visit, party and watch some of the best players in the world up close (long-time Mexican international goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez was between the posts for Santos for Sunday’s game, for example).
All in all it’s an experience I recommend and one I plan to repeat.
Read more here in today’s column.