Mexico's Chivas to Play Against MLS All-Stars

Times Staff Writer

Jorge Vergara, the Mexican businessman who owns one of Mexico's most popular teams, Chivas of Guadalajara, as well as a substantial share in Saprissa of Costa Rica, might one day own a team in Major League Soccer.

During a conference call Monday to announce that Chivas will take part in the annual MLS All-Star game at the Home Depot Center in Carson on Aug. 2, Vergara admitted his interest in acquiring an MLS team.

"We have been negotiating with MLS on different options and different issues," he said. "We haven't come to anything yet, but in the future we're going to keep on negotiating. Whatever is better for soccer, we're going to try to do it.

"If we can make it work for soccer, we will do it."

Vergara, who made his fortune as the founder of Grupo Omnilife, now one of Mexico's largest companies, and who has since branched out into real estate, entertainment and sports, bought Chivas in November for a reported $80 million.

He has since promised to turn it into Mexico's best team in five years and one of the world's best within 10 years.

One of his stated projects is to replace the club's famous home, Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, with a new stadium. A close tie with MLS and its investors will not hurt his ambitions on either side of the border.

Chivas, founded in 1906, is distinctive among Mexican clubs in that it fields only Mexican players. No foreign player has ever worn the red and white vertical stripes of the team nicknamed the Goats.

In Los Angeles, the club is said to be the second-most popular sports team after the Dodgers, although the Lakers might factor in there too. Either way, a sold-out MLS All-Star game is anticipated.

Ivan Gazidis, the deputy commissioner of MLS, said the idea behind inviting a foreign team to take part in the match is to make the event "more significant and competitive" and not simply an exhibition of the league's talent.

The choice of Chivas will achieve that and will further strengthen soccer ties between the United States and Mexico.

"In the larger sense, the future of Mexican soccer and U.S. soccer are tied together," Gazidis said. "These are two countries that are neighbors. We're tied together demographically, socially and economically.

"Now, we're integrating into the world soccer scene together. In a wider sense, that will only raise soccer in this region and benefit us as we go out to compete against other regions in the world.

"I think over time, as MLS grows, we'll see more Mexican players in MLS and perhaps more MLS players playing in Mexico. I think that would be a natural evolution in the long-term goals of both leagues.

"At the moment, we are still developing the league, which is only eight years old. We get a chance on Aug. 2 to see how much we've grown."

The MLS All-Star team will be selected by combination of voting by fans (via www.MLSnet.com), the players, the coaches and the media.

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