About a decade ago, a T-shirt became popular in American malls. In retro graphics featuring a 1970s-style monorail swooshing by, the shirt read: “Tijuana: City of Tomorrow.” Its message was sarcastic and disparaging. A border city in a distant corner of the continent, Tijuana had a seedy reputation as an “adult playground” and as a haven for all sorts of criminality. For many Americans, the short hop across the border to Tijuana still carries connotations of murky vice and sleaze.
Times have changed. Every week, Americans make the journey to Tijuana for an irreproachable reason: they cross into Mexico to watch their beloved soccer team, Club Tijuana. It may be located in another country, but the Mexican league side has become the de facto hometown team for San Diego.
San Diego is crazy for soccer. The youth game is thriving in the city and the wider county, TV viewership rates are among the highest in the country for club and international soccer, and the area is frequently mooted as a potential expansion site for American professional soccer leagues. Without a professional team of their own, San Diegans have embraced the 21st century way of watching sports, on TV or via Internet streams. But when it comes to experiencing the pageantry and passion of soccer, many locals make the logical choice of supporting the nearest team, which just happens to be on the other side of the border.