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Liga MX Femenil’s youth movement could pay dividends at the 2023 World Cup

Hidden in plain sight, Liga MX Femenil is seeing Mexico’s young women gaining valuable skills and experience.

Club América goalkeeper Jaidy Gutíerrez warms up before a match against Pumas.
Club América goalkeeper Jaidy Gutíerrez warms up before a match against Pumas.
Marien Saavedra/Club América

Liga MX Femenil doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves. It gets scant coverage in Spanish and almost zero coverage in English. Even minor things like getting photos for use in articles on the sport or reliable avenues to view matches can be a challenge.

It isn’t perfect. There are teams that are investing in the women’s game and teams that are simply checking a required box for Liga MX. The rules around Mexicans born outside of Mexico is something that hinders the league. It can do better on a number of different fronts.

But if you can look past this, you’ll see a league trying to find its identity and grow a fan base. A league that is nurturing young Mexican players in a professional environment. A league that is slowly and quietly building a Mexican National Team that could take a women’s soccer world that has ignored them for too long by storm.

A look at some of the best players shows that they are both very young and very talented. The league’s leading goalscorer is Tigres’ Alison González, who has scored six goals in five games. González averages a goal every 64 minutes, and she’s only 16 years old.

19 year old Norma Duarte of Chivas has four goals from the right wing. Chivas also has 16 year old midfielder Dania Pérez, who has two goals of her own in just 365 minutes. Another 16 year old right winger is Toluca FC’s María Mauleon, who has three goals in 450 minutes.

It’s not all offense. 16 year old Club América goalkeeper Jaidy Gutíerrez has conceded two goals in five games. Pumas’ goalkeeper Melany Villeda is also 16 and has also conceded just two goals in five games. Chivas’ goalkeeper Ana Ruvalcalba is also 16 and has allowed just one goal in her two starts.

And while these young players are doing well, 191 young women under the age of 20 have played over 34,000 minutes this season in addition to having regimented training, exercise and nutrition routines. A back line of teenagers that gets blown out 7-0 will learn from that experience thanks to the mentorship of coaches and older players who can help them improve.

It’s most likely too early for these young women to make much of an impact on the 2019 World Cup - and that’s ok. Mexico has never been a world power in the women’s game, but in a country where a game between Tigres and Monterrey outdrew the National Women’s Soccer League total attendance for the week by almost by a factor of two, it’s not a stretch to think that their time is fast approaching.

Ignore them at your own risk.