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Wednesday, June 15, 2011
MEXICO: Tijuana kicks off July 24

By Scott French

Club Tijuana's Primera Division debut is set for July 24 against Clausura runner-up Morelia at Estadio Caliente, and the Xolos' most anticipated showdown in its first season in Mexican soccer's first flight -- against Club Deportivo Guadalajara -- is slated for Aug. 3, although the venue isn't certain.

Tijuana also will play home games during the fall Apertura championship against Puebla, Gallos Blancos, Estudiantes Tecos, UANL Tigres, Pachuca, Jaguares and San Luis. All three of the Mexico City powers -- America, reigning champ Pumas UNAM and Cruz Azul -- will visit during the spring Clausura season.

Club officials have mused about playing home games against Guadalajara and America, Mexico's most popular clubs, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Both teams have massive followings in Southern California and throughout America's Southwest, and the games certainly would draw big crowds and possibly sell out.

Club Tijuana is buoyant after owner Jorge Hank Rhon, the former mayor of Tijuana, was freed from custody Tuesday after a federal judge dismissed weapons charges against him stemming from a June 4 military raid on his compound south of the border that seized 88 weapons and more than 9,000 rounds of ammunition. A judge refused a request by Baja prosecutors to keep Hank Rhon imprisoned in a murder investigation involving one of the weapons allegedly found.

Tijuana was promoted in May from the second-tier Liga de Ascenso after beating Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Irapuato in a playoff between last season's champions. The Xoloitzcuintles captured the Apertura title last December and lost to Irapuato in the spring Clausura final.

The full Primera Division schedule can be found at the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol website.

The Xolos' Apertura schedule (all times Pacific):

July 24 vs. Morelia, noon
July 30 at Monterrey, 3 p.m.
Aug. 3 vs. Guadalajara, TBA
Aug. 6 at Santos, 5 p.m.
Aug. 14 vs. Puebla, noon
Aug. 20 at Cruz Azul, 3 p.m.
Aug. 28 vs. Gallos Blancos de Queretaro, noon
Sept. 11 at Toluca, 10 a.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Estudiantes Tecos, noon
Sept. 25 at America, 2 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. UANL Tigres, noon
Oct. 8 at Atlas, 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Pachuca, noon
Oct. 22 at Atlante, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Jaguares de Chiapas, TBA
Oct. 30 vs. San Luis, noon
Nov. 6 at Pumas UNAM, 10 a.m.