Having grown used to seeing domestic rivals Barcelona of Guayaquil, Emelec and El Nacional take the lion's share of the spoils, Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito have now firmly established themselves as genuine giants of the Ecuadorian game. FIFA.com takes a look at a team who, after picking up just three titles in their first 33 years of official competition, became the first club from Ecuador to lift the Copa Libertadores and Recopa Sudamericana.
Birth of an institution
As is so often the case, the club now known as Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito started life under a different guise. Initially named Universitario, the driving force behind the new institution were a group of students from Ecuador Central University, who put their project into motion in October 1918. By the time of its official foundation in January 1930, the entity overseen by Doctor Bolivar Leon had expanded to include not just football but a variety of sporting disciplines.
It is said that in those early days Bolivar Leon not only coached the club's first team, but also had a hand in kit design. If so, his choice was simple but effective: an all-white kit with a large white ‘U' on a red-and-blue background as the club badge. But in a far cry from today's professionals, Bolivar Leon's all-student squad each had to pay for their equipment out of their own pockets.
Their main rivals early on were Aucas, though the latter have since been displaced in Liga de Quito fans' antipathy by neighbours Deportivo Quito. Meanwhile, over the course of Liga's history, a number of Ecuadorian icons such as Alex Aguinaga and Agustin Delgado have worn the iconic white jersey.
Making of a legend
Liga de Quito's first provincial professional title came in 1954, three years prior to the official start of the Ecuadorian national top flight. Liga struggled initially to adapt to the change in circumstances, taking until 1969 to clinch their first domestic championship under Brazilian coach Jose Gomes Nogueira, known within Ecuador's footballing circles as a "masterful and knowledgeable footballing supremo".
Alas, Los Albos were hit by the body blow of relegation in 1972, with many at the time predicting a lengthy stay in the second tier. Yet Liga overturned the odds by bouncing straight back in style, clinching promotion with a record-breaking and unbeaten campaign.
Though El Nacional, Barcelona and Emelec snapped up most of the domestic honours in the next two decades, with the exception of Liga's consecutive league title wins in 1974 and 1975, a further three titles during the 1990s helped the club end the century on a high. Indeed, the 7-0 thrashing of Emelec which capped the 1998-championship campaign will live long in supporters' memories, while this period marked the emergence of a host of international-class players such as Ulises De la Cruz, Eduardo Hurtado, Neicer Reasco and Byron Tenorio.
Despite another unexpected relegation in 2000, Los Albos once again showed their mettle by battling straight back into the top tier, thus setting the stage for the finest era in Liga's history.
The club's crowning glory came in 2008, when Argentinian supremo Edgardo Bauza guided Liga de Quito to Libertadores success following a penalty shoot-out victory over Fluminense at Brazil's mythical Maracana stadium. Key to that triumph, the first time an Ecuadorian side were crowned continental club champions, were the steady hands of keeper Francisco Cevallos, the tireless midfield promptings of Patricio Urrutia and Luis Bolanos and the livewire attacking pair of Joffre Guerron and Claudio Bieler. Later that same year, the Quito outfit reached the final of the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, where they performed admirably before going down 1-0 to European giants Manchester United.
Turning to 2009, and with Uruguayan strategist Jorge Fossati now at the helm, Los Albos boosted their reputation still further with a Recopa Sudamericana over the previous year's Copa Sudamericana champions Internacional of Porto Alegre. This was another first for an Ecuadorian club, which earned them an invite to this summer's prestigious Peace Cup alongside the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, FC Porto, Aston Villa and Lyon.
With construction having started in 1995 and the official unveiling on 6 March 1997, the Estadio Casa Blanca is one of the region's newest stadiums. Boasting a capacity of 55,400, the fiercely passionate atmosphere generated by the Liga faithful has proved a vital factor in the team's recent success.