The curtain-raiser of the 2019 International Champions Cup will pit two clubs that are the beating heart of their cities against one another. AS Roma, synonymous with Italy’s ancient capital for close to a century, and Chivas de Guadalajara, a club who have maintained a tradition of only playing homegrown, Mexican players throughout their professional history.
They’ll meet at the SeatGeek Stadium in Chicago, IL, on Tuesday, July 16, hoping to get their 2019 International Champions Cup campaign off to a good start.
This is the first time Chivas will play in club soccer's premier summer competition, joining a host of the world's finest teams who will be playing across three continents to compete for the International Champions Cup crown.
For Roma, it will be a familiar experience. They are making their fifth appearance, a record of experience with the International Champions Cup that only four teams worldwide can better.
While Chivas are newcomers, their history is long and storied. Founded in 1906, they’re one of only two teams to be ever-present in the professional top-flight since its inception in 1943/44, along with historic rivals Club América.
The pair are also at the top of the tree for the most league titles, América narrowly edging out Chivas 13 to 12. As well as domestic success, Chivas have triumphed on the continental stage, with two CONCACAF Champions League titles to their name.
Much of the club’s silverware was won in a golden period in the 1950s and 1960s, with eight of their league titles coming in those decades, and four in a row between 1958 and 1962. However, they’ve recently entered a second period of success, picking up three trophies in the past two years, including the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League.
Roma, meanwhile, narrowly missed the accolade of being ever-present in the top division, but have only been relegated once, in 1951/52. They have won three Italian league titles in their history, as well as nine Coppa Italia titles.
Last season they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, only to narrowly miss the final, knocked out by Liverpool 7-6 on aggregate across two legs.
Both teams, of course, have their legendary players. For Roma, Francesco Totti is as synonymous with the club as the club is with the city. He made 786 appearances for the team in all competitions, in a career that spanned 25 years.
However, even Totti can’t match the record of Chivas’ Salvador Reyes for the length of time between his first and final appearance in the club shirt. Reyes was a key part of the team in the 50s and 60s, scoring 122 goals for the club as he won seven league titles with them.
As a tribute to him, he was registered in the club’s squad in 2008 and started a match against Pumas, making him, at 71, the oldest player to play in the Mexican top flight. His replacement that day, Omar Bravo, later overtook Reyes’ record as Chivas top-scorer, finishing his career on 132.
Chivas are not the first Mexican side to feature in the International Champions Cup since its inception in 2013. The first were their rivals, América, who took part in the 2015 edition, when they played LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes, and Manchester United.
Although América lost their match against the Premier League side, they put up a good fight and it was only by a one-goal margin. The Liga MX representatives have, therefore, proved they can put on a good show with Europe’s finest.
Roma and Chivas have even faced each other once before. In 1987, the pair met in the Los Angeles Gold Cup, with Chivas winning 4-2. Can Chivas repeat this feat and become the first Mexican team to get an International Champions Cup win against European opposition?