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Aug 17, 2013

America sets sights on elusive back-to-back titles after Presidential visit

MEXICO CITY -- In 17 years and over 30 tournaments, only one team has earned the right to be crowned back-to-back champion of the Liga MX. Pumas obtained consecutive championships despite finishing 10th over the course of a full regular season. Over the period mentioned above, statistically speaking, it has been more difficult to win back-to-back titles in Mexico with just 23 games in play, than in Spain, England or Italy with nearly 40 matches in play.

- Canales: Veracruz top, Pumas bottom

The reason why is simple: Mexico's tournament does not value consistency and talent over the long run (17 regular season matches), it does so over the short term (six playoff games), while teams in Europe usually have to maintain a superb level from August to May.

On Friday, Club America's Clausura 2013 winning squad visited the Mexican President's official residence, Los Pinos, for a ceremony last enjoyed by the eleven-time league champions in 2005, or two Presidents ago. Enrique Pena Nieto, the country's current boss, cheekily admitted that he was an America fan as a child but had "learned better." He also put it on the team to make a return visit as they take on other tournaments in play.

America aims to make its first Club World Cup visit since 2006, a feat that requires winning the CONCACAF Champions League, a tournament so relatively new that the last time the Mexico City giants conquered it, it was played under a wholly different format. Even then, the possibility of a consecutive league crown must seem more appealing.

If America wins the Apertura 2013, it would have upped the ante on its biggest rival, Chivas by obtaining its twelfth league title. America has never had more league titles in its history than the Guadalajara side, and has only tied the team on a pair of occasions. To complete the goal would not only usher in a new era of supremacy within Mexican football, but it would also up the ante on a rival that has been dormant for the better part of the last decade.

Against Pachuca this weekend, America has a chance to extend an overall stretch of matches where they've lost just once since May over the course of ten games including three different tournaments. To win on the road against Pachuca (their second straight game away from the Estadio Azteca) would be massive, as the team would position itself among the league leaders despite having played two fewer games than most of the rest of the fold, due to their late start in the Apertura 2013.

It was in Pachuca that America gave its first real showing of staying power as they marched towards last season's title. Down 2-0, Christian Benitez launched into a massive individual performance, delivering a hat-trick towards an eventual 4-2 comeback. The quick response set the stage for a much bigger performance weeks later, when the team stormed back from another 2-0 deficit at the Estadio Azteca to force extra time and defeat Cruz Azul in the Liga MX final.

That match allowed America to visit Pena Nieto and the official residence on Friday, to which the Mexican President joked "I used to be an America fan as a child, but then I learned better." He paused, looked at the group, and continued: "But if you keep winning, I might be swayed."