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Are Chivas still one of the “bigs” in Liga MX?

Hard to be a “big” when losing is part of your culture

Soccer: International Champions Cup-Benfica at Guadalajara Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Chivas Rayadas del Guadalajara are undoubtedly one of the two most popular teams in all of Mexico and probably the U.S., along with Club America, of course. They’ve gotten to this point by doing two things: The first, as all big, important teams do, they won lots of titles many years ago. Secondly, and what makes them unique, they only allow Mexican-born players on their squad, meaning they cannot hire a player from any other country in the world. Unique, indeed.

Combining those two traits explains the amount of traction they gained in such a short period of time, as the entire country felt identified with the team. Not only that, but they defeated clubs like America who have always been allowed a certain number of foreign players on their squad. Hard not to identify with a team like that.

The interesting thing with Chivas is that they won 8 out of their 12 current titles within a time frame of 13 years (from 1956-57 to 1969-70). And those were the yearlong titles, like we have in Europe today, where the best team truly wins. Talk about a dynasty if there ever was one.

Atlas v Chivas - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images

But here is where the story gets interesting. This means that in the last 50 years, Chivas have only won the title 4 times. FOUR TIMES. How can a team keep its “big” or “grande” status when they win less than once every decade on average? After those amazing 13 years, the 70’s were a lost cause. In the 80’s, they regained relevance and won their 9th title. And after change in ownership to start the 90’s, they obtained their 10th title, which was already part of the short season era (6 months). And since the change of century, only 2 more titles have been obtained. That means they’ve won 2 titles in the last 40 seasons.

Not to mention the wretched form the club has been in for the past 8 years to date, inching ever closer to relegation. From the Clausura 2012 to the Apertura 2015 (8 seasons), the team placed 13th or lower in the table in 6 of those. After that, Matias Almeyda gave them a little oxygen and good results for a year and half, including their 12th title over Tigres. But then it happened again. Since the Apertura 2017 (5 seasons), Chivas has ended up in the lower half of the table every single season.

If those previous stats aren’t enough, here’s the cherry on top. In the last eleven and a half years, dating back to the Apertura 2008, out of the 23 seasons that have been played, Chivas has missed the playoffs 15 times. And today they stand 15th in the relegation battle, which thanks to Veracruz and league executives, they run no risk of losing. So not only have they not won titles, but they’ve looked like a relegation candidate for nearly the last decade.

When you look at other “big” teams in the world of soccer (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus), these are teams that are always competing at the top, bringing in top-notch players, playing spectacularly for the most part, and most importantly, never being okay with losing. Take the Lakers in basketball or the Yankees in baseball, for instance. Losing is just not in those organization’s DNA.

And we don’t have to go further than Liga Mx to find an example, and with that I mean America. Not to mention, Tigres, Rayados, and Cruz Azul have all flown past Chivas, and continue to sustain that great level of competitiveness season after season. Guadalajara have stopped signing the bigger and better Mexican players, and have become a cartoon compared to many other teams in the league. Chivas may continue to be popular and get media attention thanks to their history, but they lost the “big team” status many years ago.