Miguel de Jesús Fuentes, the head coach of Ascenso MX side FC Juárez, didn’t mice words when asked about his side’s third match of the Copa MX against Lobos BUAP.
“In our division, the Cup doesn’t mean anything. For us, the only thing that matters is being champions of the league and winning promotion. What difference does it make if we win the Cup, but fail to gain promotion? The trophy would be worthless to our institution,” said Fuentes shortly after arriving in Puebla.
Fuentes followed up his strong comments by selecting a starting XI made up of youngsters from FC Juárez’s newly formed 3rd division squad and two of the borderland team’s winter signings Carlos Ibargüen and Johan Arango. The young Bravos de FC Juárez proceeded to be easily dispatched 3-0 at the hands of an older and more experienced Lobos BUAP squad.
The move was highly uncharacteristic of FC Juárez. In previous editions of the Copa MX, los Bravos had sent out their regular starting XI for matches against teams in Mexico’s first division. When asked about the decision to start such a young squad against his former club, Fuentes had the following to say. “Our principal objective is to win promotion to Liga MX at the end of this tournament. Anything outside of the league is secondary to this primary objective and will be treated as such.”
Fuentes continued, “What we did is no different than many of the first division teams in this tournament. The difference between us and them is that these first division teams have well established youth team programs and ours is barely six months old. This means that our young players who barely debuted in the 3rd division are also quickly making debuts against first team sides like Lobos and Pumas. Other than that, there is nothing special about what we chose to do with the starting XI.”
Fuentes’ sentiments about the Copa MX might help to explain why no team from Mexico’s second division has won the tournament since it returned from a long hiatus in 2013. There really is next to no benefit for a team from Ascenso MX to put out their best starting XI and risk injury in a tournament that is next to nothing more than a series of over glorified friendlies. At the end of the day, promotion to Liga MX is the primary goal for every team in the Ascenso MX. Winning the Copa MX or just sending out their best possible lineup in the tournament does nothing towards helping a team achieve this goal of promotion.
With fewer and fewer teams taking the Copa MX seriously, one has to question why exactly the tournament is played. It’s not as if there are significant attendance or tv viewership numbers for the midweek Copa games. In fact, there are significantly fewer fans in attendance of Copa games than regular league games. It’s hard to blame these fans for not showing up in large number. Who in their right mind would spend a significant amount of their hard earned cash to watch a series of over glorified friendlies between makeshift squads in the middle of the workweek?
What do you think of the Copa MX? Does it really matter? Is Miguel de Jesús Fuentes right to say that the tournament is a waste of time and useless?