The 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup gets underway in February, and two Canadian Premier League teams will be going toe-to-toe with some of the top clubs in the region. CanPL.ca will be covering the tournament extensively, with in-depth guides on the CPL teams and their opponents, plus more on the whole tournament. For more of CanPL.ca’s coverage of the Concacaf Champions Cup, click here.
Location (league): Guadalajara, Mexico (Liga MX)
Date founded: 1906 Appearances in CCC/CCL: 8
Best finish: Champions (1962, 2018)
First opponent: Forge FC
Considered to be the most popular club in Mexico, CD Guadalajara — better known as Chivas — were one of the founding members of the Mexican first division. The 117-year-old club was founded in May 1906 and have gone on to achieve incredible success and notoriety both domestically and internationally.
They were the inaugural winners of the Concacaf Champions Cup, defeating Guatemalan side Comunicaciones in 1962. In 2018, they won their second title, defeating Toronto FC in a penalty shootout. They have twice been runners-up as well, losing in the 2007 finale to Liga MX rivals Pachuca on penalties. Domestically, only Club América have amassed more titles than the 12 times that Chivas have won the first division, finishing as runners-up a further 10 times.
Traditionally, Chivas have been known for their development and commitment to having a team made up of domestic talent. Their current roster features just two players who are not Mexican-born: goalkeeper Óscar Whalley (a Spanish youth international) and recent U.S. international signing Cade Cowell. Both Whalley and Cowell, however, have Mexican heritage.
Some of the best players in the country’s history have come through the Chivas academy and first team, including Carlos Salcido, Carlos Vela and Javier Hernández, who is the all-time leading goalscorer in Mexican national team history. Hernández, also known as ‘Chicharito,’ recently returned to the club after 14 seasons playing abroad, including winning the English Premier League twice with Manchester United, and the FIFA Club World Cup with Real Madrid. The 35-year-old is coming off an ACL injury that he suffered while playing for the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer this past season, so his availability for the early rounds of the competition may be questionable as he works his way back to fitness.
Chivas play at the Estadio Akron, which is set to be one of the host stadiums for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The 48,071-seat venue, which is located in Zapopan — on the outskirts of Guadalajara — opened in July 2010.
Despite their history, Guadalajara have made the fewest previous appearances in this competition (eight) of any of the other Liga MX entrants involved in the 2024 Champions Cup. This is their first appearance since that aforementioned championship in 2018.
There has been a lot of turnover since then. Argentine coach Fernando Gago, the club’s current manager, is the ninth different person (and tenth different managerial change) since compatriot Matias Almeyda left after winning that Champions Cup title. That turnover has extended to the roster as well, as goalkeeper Miguel Jiménez, defender Carlos Cisneros and midfielder Isaác Brizuela are the only players who appeared against Toronto FC in the two-leg 2018 final that are still with Chivas.
But regardless of that five-year hiatus from the Champions Cup, Chivas Guadalajara will enter the 2024 tournament with plenty of fanfare and ready to once again make some noise on the continental stage.
Chivas qualified for this competition as the runner-up in the 2022-23 Liga MX Clausura (the second portion of the season). They made a dramatic run to the final, defeating Atlas in the quarter-finals and Club América in the semis. Despite an outstanding start to the second leg of the final at home, scoring twice in the opening 20 minutes, they fell 3-2 to Tigres on a goal from Guido Pizarro in extra time.
The club will be entering the competition with a new manager, but one with an incredible resumé as a player. Fernando Gago took over on December 20, 2023 from former Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunović. The 37-year-old Gago played 61 times for Argentina, including in the 2014 World Cup final against Germany. He also won La Liga twice with Real Madrid as a player. Prior to joining Guadalajara as head coach, he spent three years managing Racing Club in his native Argentina.
3 Key Players
The 25-year-old midfielder has been a key member of this Chivas Guadalajara side for the better part of six seasons, having played his entire professional career within the Chivas system. He is coming off his most productive campaign to date, having scored four goals during the Apertura. Beltrán was on the bench for both legs of the 2018 Champions Cup final against Toronto but did not appear. He has also made ten appearances for the Mexican national team at the senior level.
Gutiérrez brought European pedigree to Guadalajara when he joined in July. The 26-year-old is a versatile midfielder who has outstanding technical ability. Before returning to Mexico, he spent five seasons with PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch League, with whom he played in the UEFA Champions League. He also captained Pachuca to the Concacaf Champions Cup title in 2016-17 and has played 36 times for Mexico, including at both the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup tournaments.
For a Chivas side that has struggled to score goals of late, the 25-year-old winger has been their key danger man. He led the club in scoring during the Apertura with six goals, adding an assist. But over the course of his career it is his playmaking that has been his standout attribute. Alvarado has been a regular with the Mexican national team in recent years, with 43 caps for his country and has scored five times, winning the Concacaf Gold Cup in 2019 and 2023. He made an appearance off the bench against Argentina at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Guadalajara are coming off a fifth-place finish in the Apertura, before losing to Pumas UNAM in the quarter-finals. Two things in particular stand out about that phase of the season. Chivas struggled to score, as only five clubs scored fewer goals than them (22 in 17 matches) in the Apertura, but they actually overperformed their expected goals of 20.7. However, they were also excellent at home, as they have lost just twice in their last eleven home matches at Estadio Akron.
They have been busy solidifying their squad over the past month, adding Cowell and Chicharito. Chivas have also been bolstered by the return of striker José Juan Macias, who was lethal for club and country a few years ago before injuries derailed his form. However, it is worth noting that they recently lost star attacker Alexis Vega to Toluca.
Chivas will be in pretty tough to make a significant run in this competition. Beating Forge would likely mean a match against Club América in the round of 16 — who have more Concacaf Champions Cup titles than any other club (seven). Their side of the bracket also includes Costa Rican champions Alajuelense, who are making their 27th appearance in the competition, more than any other club (winning twice, most recently in 2004), and 2022-23 Liga MX Apertura winners Pachuca. A storied club like this will always go into this competition looking to at least go deep, and they showed during last year’s Clausura that they know how to win knockout matches, but even reaching the quarter-finals will likely be a tough road.
First round schedule
Leg 1: Wednesday, Feb. 7
Forge FC vs. Guadalajara — Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, Ont.
8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT
Leg 2: Tuesday, Feb. 13
Guadalajara vs. Forge FC — Estadio Akron, Zapopan, Mexico 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT