For the past three years, Los Banos youth soccer teams associated with Livingston club Fuego FC have played in the NorCal Premier league.
But for one day, Fuego FC's U17 boys are going international when they host the Under-17 squad of LigaMX championship contender Club Tijuana -- also known as Xoloitzcuintles, or just the Xolos for short.
The main event is set for Dec. 9 at 4:30 p.m. at Loftin Stadium, with warm-up games at 12:15 p.m. (Salinas Soccer League's U12 team vs. Fuego FC's U12), 1:30 p.m. (Toritos vs. Alianza), and 3 p.m. (Barcelona FC-LB vs. Nuevo Imperio). Tickets are $15.
"(The players) are very excited. This is a big event for us," Fuego FC coach Lenin Prado said. "That's what we're trying to do is to bring big events to the community."
The match came about through a simple conversation -- promoter Bob Rodriguez, who has put together many such international friendlies over the years and has family living in Los Banos, said he was talking with the Muñoz brothers who own and run M&M's Italian Restaurant.
"They know me for 35 years," Rodriguez said. "One day they asked, 'Bob, why don't you bring somebody to Los Banos?' They wanted something to happen here."
Club Tijuana's U17 team is coached by Colombia native Frankie Oviedo, who won a Mexican Primera Division (now known as LigaMX) title as a player with Club America in 2002, as well as two Colombian titles (with America de Cali in 1997 and with Boyaca Chico in 2008).
"He was impressive from playing middle forward," Prado said. "Just for him to be with us here, many people in our community know him because he used to play for a big club in Mexico."
Now Oviedo runs the youth program for the Xolos, whose main squad went 9-1-7 (34 points) in the regular season to finish second to Toluca, which also scored 34 points (the Xolos fell to second on goal differential). After winning in the playoff quarterfinals and semifinals, Toluca and Club Tijuana will face off the league championship, a home-and-home matchup.
The Xolos team coming to town is made up of players with a shot at Mexican soccer stardom in their future -- the Xolos club structure includes the main team, a reserve team, an under-20 team, and the under-17 team, according to Rodriguez. He said next year the club will add an under-15 team.
"The 17s coming from Xolos, they've already been in the Xolos organization for 12 or 14 years," Prado said. "They're like the new stars for Xolos -- they'll be playing in the first division."
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at email@example.com