GUADALAJARA, Mexico — With their stadium just a 10-minute drive from the border, Mexican Primera División newcomers Club Tijuana say they’re actively scouring Southern California in search of the next big thing.
“The philosophy of Club Tijuana is to be a regional team,” Roberto Conejo, director of Club Tijuana’s youth system, told the club’s official website.
On Monday, Arturo Ramírez, the coach of the Xolos’ third-division team, was north of the border giving a soccer clinic to more than 40 youngsters between the ages of 12 and 17, who form part of the Southwest International Football Academy.
“In Club Tijuana, the door is open to increasing links with the California region,” said Cornejo.
The Southwest International Football Academy has two chapters in Southern California — in Temecula and Riverside — and is integrated into Club Tijuana’s plan to develop youngsters in the region and incorporate them into the Mexican club’s youth teams.
One example of a Californian trying his luck at Club Tijuana is that of Joe Benny Corona, who left San Diego State University and a potential place in the MLS SuperDraft to head south and join Tijuana’s youth program. So far, he has two goals in his first two games in the Mexican Primera División and is established in the first team.
“Our dream is that someday we have kids from our school in the youth division with Xoloitzcuintles,” said Alberto Alcazar, head of the Riverside campus of the Southwest Football International Academy.
Cornejo added that Southern California has a wealth of young players with excellent physical and technical ability.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @mexicoworldcup