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Chivas banner | © Jaec/Flickr
Chivas banner | © Jaec/Flickr

What to Know About Mexican Soccer's Greatest Rivalries

Picture of Stephen Woodman
Updated: 7 September 2017
Nothing gets Mexicans as fired up as the beautiful game. The country’s great soccer rivalries are a source of dispute and division across the country and parts of Mexico virtually grind to a halt for the biggest derby matches. Here’s our guide to the greatest rivalries in this soccer-obsessed nation.

El Clasico Nacional – Chivas vs. América

El clasico nacional is more a philosophical battle than a simple game of soccer. Guadalajara is the country’s second-largest city and the capital of Jalisco. As the birthplace of both tequila and mariachi, this a true cradle of Mexican tradition.

Chivas has a unique policy of signing only Mexican players, making the club a major producer of homegrown talent such as Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

The Mexico City-based América has a very different reputation. Owned by Televisa, Mexico’s most powerful media group, América is only too happy to spend big on flash foreigners.

The rivalry is at peak levels since Chivas won the league title in May. Both clubs are now tied as Mexico’s most successful, having won 12 titles each.

Chivas table soccer team | © Yeskefo/Flickr

El Clásico Tapatío – Chivas vs. Atlas

Mexico’s oldest soccer rivalry pits Guadalajara’s top teams against each other in a polarizing battle over the city’s true identity. Atlas traditionally enjoys more support among the middle class whereas Chivas has always been embraced by el pueblo: the city’s taxi drivers, construction workers and those in the informal economy. In 2002, the brash business leader Jorge Vergara took ownership of Chivas and the traditional social class divisions around the teams have been blurred ever since. Yet the rivalry remains as fierce today as it ever was.

Atlas fans | © Hefebreo/Flickr

Clasico Regio – Monterrey vs. Tigres

Another bitter rivalry plays out in the northern city of Monterrey. Tigres, one of Mexico’s most successful clubs in recent years, is tied to the city’s public university, whereas Monterrey represents the private Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. As with the clásico tapatío, this adds a social element to the rivalry and plays to the people versus the elite narrative. Such divisions have little impact on the pitch however – both teams are among Mexico’s biggest spenders – yet the Monterrey rivalry makes for incredibly passionate derbies.

Clásico Joven – América vs. Cruz Azul

Mexico City’s most passionate rivalry pits past and present against each other. América has a reputation as a forward-thinking yet ruthless club and has enjoyed massive success over the past two decades. Cruz Azul have not won a league title since 1997 but were a dominant force in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, the club has acquired a reputation for falling at the last hurdle. Yet the sweet memories of the glory years have not faded from the minds of Cruz Azul fans, who eagerly hope to one day unseat América from its position as Mexico City’s most successful club.

Cruz Azul supporters | © Hefebreo/Flickr

Clásico Capitalino – Pumas vs. America

The rivalry between Pumas and America developed in the 1980s, and sets two versions of the capital against each other. Big spending América has dominated the game in Mexico City for years, while Pumas is the young upstart that focuses on youth player development. While América has enjoyed the support of Mexican TV for decades, Pumas is linked to the country’s largest university, a cradle of counter-culture and left-wing activism. The derby may draw less attention nationwide than the clásico joven, but is a huge event for those in the capital.