In the Box: InterLiga

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In 2003 when the United States met Mexico at Reliant Stadium it was the first time the two teams had encountered each other since the U.S.'s 2-0 victory in the elimination stage at the World Cup in Korea/Japan. It was also an historic night in that it was the first-ever soccer game played at Reliant Stadium.

Little would one know that as we head into 2006 what a large part that international game and the ensuing ones at Reliant Stadium would play in helping to put Houston on the domestic and world soccer map.


That along with increased media coverage helped to lift an already savvy and diverse soccer community to another level in the eyes of many around the nation.

It has also helped to create the awareness that was needed for Major League Soccer to realize that Houston was a market that needed to be a part of the league.

After last Friday's press conference at City Hall announcing the San Jose Earthquakes' move to Houston I was deluged with e-mails and telephone calls from ecstatic Houston fans.

For me I am excited about MLS coming to our city but I also felt a sadness for San Jose and their fans. Having broadcasted numerous games at Spartan Stadium in San Jose and having played against the Earthquakes in the mid-eighties, I am aware of the long-standing soccer tradition in the Bay Area.

Losing a team is a subject we as Houstonians can relate to when the Houston Oilers left our city. Sure, now we have the Texans but the empty years without the NFL for many left a void. I only hope that soccer will return to San Jose in the near future.

On another note the InterLiga tournament is just around the corner on Jan. 4 at Reliant Stadium. Here is another great opportunity for fans to see the stars of the Mexican League and many who will perform in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Six-time Mexican league champions Cruz Azul led by international strikers 'Chelito' Delgado and Kikin Fonseca will replace Toluca in the opening match of the InterLiga taking on Necaxa. The game will also mark the debut of new Cruz Azul head coach Isaac Mizrahi, who replaces Ruben Romano. Many will remember Romano after he was kidnapped for 60 days during the fall season.

You may have seen Toluca defeat Monterrey Rayado's this past Sunday in the Mexican League championship. With that victory Toluca will now play in the 2006 Champions Cup opening the door for " la maquina azul" to make its way to Houston and begin to compete for a trip to the Copa Libertadores .

In the nightcap Mexico's popular Chivas takes on Tigres of Monterrey, who made it to the Mexican League playoff semi-finals only to lose to city rivals Rayados and will look for redemption. They are led by dangerous attacking players Argentine Walter Gaitan and Sixto Peralta.

The rabid fans of Chivas and Tigres should make Reliant Stadium a cauldron of passion in the nightcap.

I for one am going to make sure that I don't miss this night.

With the top strikers in the Mexican league like Gaitan (11 goals for Tigres), Kikin Fonseca (8 goals for Cruz Azul), and Cesar Delgado (9 goals for Cruz Azul) on hand for these games something tells me goals will be scored.

The other note of interest is that fans will have a wonderful opportunity to see numerous players that will or could be a part of this summer's World Cup like Delgado (Cruz Azul), Fonseca(Cruz Azul) goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez (Chivas), defenders Carlos Salcido(Chivas) and Francisco Rodriquez (Chivas) to name a few .

The upcoming year is a historic one with the World Cup being contested this summer in Germany and MLS coming to our great city. Start it off in great fashion by attending the Interliga doubleheader on Jan. 4.

Hope to see you there!

Davis is a nationally recognized broadcaster for HDNET where he partners up with former U.S. National Team defender Marcelo Balboa. He was one of the lead voices for ESPN during the 2002 World Cup and has called major international soccer matches for the Fox Network as well. He is a weekly columnist for the Houston Chronicle and hosts the "Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis" radio show presented by Soccer 4 ALL on ESPN 790 AM every Sunday from 5-6 pm. Davis played soccer professionally for the Houston Dynamos where he was a league all star selection and team captain.

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