The Clasico Joven ... is an important part of Mexico City's rich history. Club America and Cruz Azul helped transform Liga MX into the exciting league it is today, which now includes great teams across Mexico. When they meet, the country's capital holds its breath, and although Cruz Azul hasn't won a league title since 1997, the memories of past glories reawaken in every new edition of the rivalry. The 1970s and '80s saw these two teams dominate every corner of Mexican football -- a history that's impossible to erase.
This rivalry is comparable to ... Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid. On the one hand you have America, the most decorated club in Mexico and CONCACAF. On the other you have Cruz Azul, whose silverware count is also among the best in the country and region.
There was a time when the Clasico Joven was almost an automatic win for America, similar to Los Blancos always coming out on top vs. Atleti. But, of course, in came Diego Simeone and everything changed. Cruz Azul needs to find its Simeone in order for La Maquina to return to the league's top places. Is current coach Paco Jemez the man for the job?
History / biggest moments
The Clasico Joven is founded on finals, so it's no wonder that this rivalry's greatest moments have taken place in Liga MX finals held over various eras.
Cruz Azul won five of its eight league titles in the '70s. What seems remarkable and still energizes the Clasico Joven to this day is that La Maquina won the league in 1971-72, its first season playing at Estadio Azteca (the stadium it would call home until 1996). What's even better is that the runner-up was none other than America.
The 1971-72 final will forever be remembered for the manner in which Cruz Azul dismantled Las Aguilas, running out 4-1 winners. After that, the Clasico Joven fever took over the entire country -- from north to south and east to west.
There's no doubt that America's best decade was the '80s, when it won five of its 12 league trophies. Players like Luis Roberto Alves "Zague," Cristobal Ortega and Alfredo "Capitan Furia" Tena wore the azulcrema colors during that golden era.
America and Cruz Azul met once again in the 1988-89 final and on this occasion it went down to the wire. The aggregate score read 5-4 thanks to a decisive winner from renown Mexican forward Carlos Hermosillo, who went on to play for both teams but identified more closely with Cruz Azul than America.
Crazy finals have been common in the past 10 years. The Tigres vs. Pumas of the 2015 Apertura was electric and the recent 2016 Apertura also had its moments, but the one that still takes the cake by a landslide is the 2013 Clausura Clasico Joven final. From red cards to Miguel "Piojo" Herrera's celebrations and a last-second goal scored by a goalkeeper, this final had it all.
Although he slipped, Miguel Layun scored the winning penalty that gave America its 11th league title.
The stats behind the clash
- America has won two of the three finals in which it faced Cruz Azul, including the 2013 Clausura.
- A go-ahead or game-tying goal after the 90th minute has been scored in each of the last two editions of the Clasico Joven.
- America has won three of its past four Liga MX matches against Cruz Azul.
- Cruz Azul has one win in its past 10 games across competitions, while America has seven points through seven games -- its second-worst start to a Liga MX campaign in the short-season format (since 1996).
The big players
Miguel "Superman," "Gato" Marin: Inevitably, as Cruz Azul recounts its history, Marin's name will always stand out. His charisma and formidable displays in goal for La Maquina made him one of the best goalkeepers to ever play in Mexico. With Marin in goal, Cruz Azul won five of its eight league titles. The '70s will be remembered as a point in time when he and his team took Liga MX by storm.
Moises Munoz: Although Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Zague are tied as America's top goalscorers in the Clasico Joven with eight goals apiece, Munoz will be remembered as the goalkeeper who ruined Cruz Azul's chances of lifting its ninth league trophy in the 2013 Clausura. Munoz's header in the last play of the match took the final to extra-time. When penalties came around, he made one save that propelled America to its 10th league title. That rainy night in May made Munoz one of Las Aguilas' most revered and adored players.
Juan Francisco Palencia: During Palencia's playing days, he was known in Mexico as gatillero, or "gunman," due to his clinical finishing skills in the box. To this day, he is Cruz Azul's leading goalscorer in the Clasico Joven with nine goals. Palencia scored 98 goals in total for La Maquina, but the Mexico City side was not his only club. He featured for three of Mexico's four "grandes" -- Cruz Azul, Chivas and Pumas -- each of whom share the same main objective: making life miserable for America.
What the players say
"In each of the three Clasicos against Chivas, Cruz Azul and Pumas, the player who has scored the most goals for America has been me. I think it shows the magnitude these matches had for me; these were games where I always wanted the fans to see the best version of Zague." -- America legend Zague.
"The [Clasico Joven], you live it with a lot passion. It's a beautiful rivalry because it's between two important clubs from the same city. To play against your main rival, you see an increment in the passion and the desire to take part in these games." -- Former Cruz Azul forward "Paco" Palencia.
What the fans say
- Nayib Morán (@nayibmoran) 23 de febrero de 2017
- Nayib Morán (@nayibmoran) 23 de febrero de 2017
"Nowadays players always move from one club to the next, so they don't feel the colors like they used to. There's no support for the youth academies, so the players don't know the meaning of the Clasico Joven. Tell me which Cruz Azul players have played in a Clasico Joven? "Cata" [Julio Dominguez] and [Jose de Jesus] Corona are some, but there are very few cases."