SAN DIEGO -- Women's professional soccer in Mexico debuted last year and every team in the Liga MX fields a team, including the Tijuana Xolos. For the first time, they have some Americans who have crossed the border to play.
Launched in July of 2017, the Liga MX women's league became the first women's pro soccer league in Mexico, giving players like 23-year-old Patricia Gutierrez the chance to play for her hometown team.
"A girl can look up to me. I'm not a super professional player but I leave my heart on the field and the girls can see that they can achieve their goals and dreams if they want to," said Club Tijuana defender Gutierrez.
Sanctioned by the Mexican Soccer Federation, the league only allowed Mexican-born players until this season. Now, all 19 teams can field up to six Mexican-Americans on their roster.
"I've always loved the soccer culture in Mexico," said Club Tijuana midfielder Veronica Perez. "My family was from Mexico so they followed a couple of teams on the men's side and then when the women's team came, I wanted to be part of that."
"I was personally going to be done playing," said Club Tijuana right back Yadira Toraya. "I was going to start my career but as soon as the league changed the rule, I was like I can play, I can definitely go out there and play so that's kind of what motivated me."
The Xolos women's club has yet to make the playoffs but now, with veteran players like Perez, who has played in several U.S. leagues and the 2011 World Cup with Mexico, the Xolos hope to improve quite a bit.
"I'm just hoping to share all of my experience and knowledge and help them grow and become better players and show them how to train like a professional and what they need to do to maybe play at the next level," said Perez.
The women play in the same stadium as the men, and they say the fans bring just as much enthusiasm to the games.
"They're going to see a lot of passion, a lot of effort and a lot of love because the environment of the stadium, a lot of cheering and yelling but all the support, all the fun you're going to get," said Gutierrez.
The Xolo's women's home opener is July 22 against Veracruz.