For the vast majority of people: the legendary players, gargantuan stadiums, passionate fans, and the never ending drama of Liga MX would come to mind when they think about Mexican soccer. However, very few of these same people would have any idea about the workings of Mexican soccer below the first division.
Liga Ascenso MX isn't quite as full of glitz and glamour as the top division of Mexican soccer; nor is it anywhere near as well known. The league, which stretches all the way from Ciudad Juárez in the the far north to Tapachula and Cancún in the far south, is in a constant state of influx and insecurity. Just last year, FC Juárez was added to the league, despite the lack of an active promotion and relegation system, and very nearly managed to get themselves promoted to Liga MX after less than a year of existence. This feat was widely covered by sports networks and blogs worldwide. However, FC Juárez and their meteoric rise to prominence might just be the epitome of everything wrong with lower division soccer in Mexico.
Alejandra De La Vega, the owner and chairwoman of FC Juárez, bought the franchise rights to a less than overly successful Ascenso MX team and moved them to Ciudad Juárez. She extravagantly unveiled a new team name, uniforms, and a stacked roster filled with talent well above the norm in Ascenso MX. After the Clausra 2015, the team's first season in existence they were crowned champions. The next season they were defeated by Necaxa in the big promotion playoff.
The FC Juárez story sounds pretty mundane, but there is much more than meets the eye. Much like FC Juárez, teams in Mexico are frequently created out of thin air. A person with boatloads of money comes in and snatches a preexisting team and moves them to another city. Miners de Zacatecas is a perfect example of this. When Estudiantes Tecos was relegated from Liga MX in 2012, a businessman from Zacatecas bought the franchise and moved them there. The whole sale and move of the team took place overnight. There was hardly any news about the sale of the team until after it had already happened.To make things even more unusual regarding Ascenso MX, there hasn't been promotion or relegation from the league for the past five years. Despite this fact, FC Juárez and Cimarrones de Sonora joined the league as new teams. However, this is set to change as Loros de Colima and Tamaulipas were promoted into the league. These two teams are the first new additions as part of the rebirth of a more conventional structure for Mexican soccer.
Due to the lack of team stability and the fact that the level of play can sometimes be well-below the level of Liga MX, teams in the first division are hesitant to loan their bright young talent out to get playing time. Often, this leads to young talent wasting away on the benches or youth academies of major teams instead of getting playing time and experience in the Ascenso MX. Compare the lack of loan time that players receive in Mexico versus players and England and the contrast is stark. Players like Harry Kane bounced around in the lower leagues on loans before they ever got their chance to shine with the first squad of their current teams. The lack of overall quality has really discouraged Liga MX and Ascenso MX teams from loaning players out to the Segunda Division. Which has inevitably led to some players not getting game time with the senior squads; Which hurts the overall quality of Mexican soccer.
The Segunda División is actually the third tier of Mexican soccer. The name of the league often causes great confusion for fans outside of Mexico. The league plays with a quality and style that can best be described as "ugly." The quality of the teams in the Segunda Division varies greatly. Teams like the newly promoted Potros de UAEM, Loros de Colima, and the Tampica Modero FC have large fan bases and strong squads. Other teams like Dorados de UACH play in stadiums with roll away bleachers in front of maybe 12 fans a game.
The league has been in a state of limbo for the past five years as promotion to Ascenso MX was blocked by the FMF in an attempt to stabilize the league. However, now that promotion and relegation to and from the league has been restored it will be able to operate like any other lower division in the world.
Also, much like Acenso MX, new teams appear and disappear at random. Just the other week, Indios de UACJ folded due to lack of funding and attendance at their games. A wealthy business person bought the team and it is very likely that s new team will sprout up somewhere else in Mexico.
The easiest way to fix the lower divisions of Mexican soccer would be to stabilize the locations and ownership groups of teams. Far too often teams are bought, sold, or moved as a result of their failure to win games immediately. This prevents teams from setting up stabilized academies to produce players for the senior squads. It also leads to disinterest from fans, which causes a huge loss in revenue for the owners of the team. As a result of the lost revenue, many owners sell their teams or move them before they go too far under. It's a vicious cycle that won't stop unless the FMF does a better job deciding which owners and which cities are granted teams. As opposed to the current option which seems to be let the person with the most upfront money have a team.
Mexico's lower leagues can play a role in player development but its up to the FMF to create a stable environment.