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Energy infusion

CHIVAS DE GUADALAJARA VS. GALAXY SuperLiga Pool Play,
7 tonight, at the Coliseum

Latin America's passion for soccer is clearly a key to the sport's development in the U.S.

July 28, 2007|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

"The real driver of soccer interest in this country has been . . . the Latino fan, primarily the Mexican American fan, who loves this game and cares about it and brings to this country a passion for their teams back home and also for their national team," Garber said.

That passion was evident last August when 92,650 showed up at the Coliseum to see Chivas de Guadalajara play Barcelona, or when 47,329 turned out at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto this month to watch Club America play Chelsea.

Soccer fans of all stripes want real competition, however, not friendly games, and MLS responded by creating the SuperLiga.

Latino fans are "following their teams on the Internet, they're watching them on Univision and on TeleFutura and on Telemundo, and all of a sudden this Mexican soccer fan who was an afterthought for everyone is now somebody that's high on our radar screen," Garber said. "So we see this as an opportunity for the Mexican clubs to come in and have that same level of excitement and intensity that their national team has when they play against our national team."

The idea is to use Mexican teams to introduce MLS teams to Latino fans and, ideally, win them over.

"What we need to do is prove that we can beat their teams," Garber said. "Part two of this plan is to say, 'You see, we beat Pachuca, we beat Club America, we're as good as Chivas, we deserve your support.' It is definitely a strategy of trying to get real competition."

The Galaxy's 2-1 win over Pachuca on Tuesday in the SuperLiga was a step in this direction.

"We've got to earn the respect of these fans that I think really want to be connected with MLS long-term," Garber said.

It could also lead to other Mexican clubs following the example of Chivas de Guadalajara, which established Chivas USA as an MLS offshoot.

Other Mexican teams are also considering coming to the U.S., said Decio De Maria, general secretary of the Mexican soccer federation.

The SuperLiga, De Maria said, "allows us to conquer new markets . . . and I think we all end up as winners, not just the improvement of soccer in the U.S., which is on its way up."

The bottom line is that the U.S. and Mexico, working in tandem, can only benefit soccer.

"There's nothing that's going to stop the development of the sport in this country," Garber said. "I questioned whether that would be true three, four, five years ago. I have no doubt about it now."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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Begin text of infobox

International Galaxy

The Galaxy is 19-16-14 in international exhibitions since the team's inception in 1996. Results since 2002:

*--* 2007

*--*

* July 24: Galaxy 2, Pachuca (Mexico) 1

* July 21: Chelsea FC (England) 1, Galaxy 0

* July 17: Tigres UANL (Mexico) 3, Galaxy 0

* May 23: Rangers F.C. (Scotland) 1, Galaxy 0

*--* 2006

*--*

* July 26: Cruz Azul 4, Galaxy 1

* July 12: Necaxa (Mexico) 1, Galaxy 0

* March 9: Galaxy 4, Cartago (Costa Rica) 1

* Feb. 8: Korea 3, Galaxy 0

*--* 2005

*--*

* July 18: Real Madrid (Spain) 3, Galaxy 0

* June 8: Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan) 2, Galaxy 0

* March 10: Galaxy 1, Real Madrid "B" 1

* March 9: CA Osasuna (Spain) 1, Galaxy 0

* March 8: Galaxy 2, CS Osasuna "B" 1

*--* 2004

*--*

* Dec. 3: Galaxy 4, Necaxa 1

* June 12: Sao Paulo (Brazil) 1, Galaxy 0

* April 20: Galaxy 1, Tecos UAG (Mexico) 1

* March 3: Galaxy 1, OCG Nice (France) 0

* March 1: Galaxy 2, Sainte Raphael (France) 1

* Feb. 25: AS Istres (France) 2, Galaxy 0

*--* 2003

*--*

* Sept. 3: Galaxy 0, China 0

* July 20: PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) 4, Galaxy 0

* July 18: Galaxy 0, 1860 Munchen (Germany) 0

* July 16: Galaxy 0, Nacional (Uruguay) 0

*--* 2002

*--*

* Nov. 6: Galaxy 1, Club Santos Laguna (Mexico) 1

* May 8: Galaxy 3, Aguila (El Salvador) 1

* March 12: Galaxy 1, Cruz Azul (Mexico) 0

* Feb. 27: Galaxy 3, San Felipe (Chile) 0

* Feb. 25: Galaxy 1, Universidad Catolica (Chile) 0

* Feb. 22: Galaxy 2, Universidad de Chile 0

* Feb. 21: Galaxy 2, Colo Colo (Chile) 2

* Feb. 19: Galaxy 3, Magallanes (Chile) 1

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