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The Xolos-Monarcas Morelia Copa MX controversy, explained

Tijuana got a 1-0 win over Morelia in the Copa MX - or did they?

Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente press release

Tijuana and Monarcas Morelia played in the Copa MX tournament last night, and Xolos won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Ariel Nahuelpán in the 73rd minute. They’d move on to the semifinal round, right?

Not so fast.

There was controversy as it was alleged that Tijuana hadn’t complied with the rules regarding menores, or minor players. Copa MX rules are worded as follows:

Artículo 17L
Para la COPA MX A18 y C19, los Clubes podrán contar con Jugadores No Formados en México, los cuales deberán estar reglamentariamente inscritos en su Club y podrán ser alineados de conformidad con lo que establece el Reglamento de Competencia de cada División.
Regla Menores
Los Clubes tendrán la obligación de utilizar en la cancha a mínimo 2 Jugadores menores Formados en México hasta acumular 180 minutos por partido en la Fase de Grupos y todos los partidos de la Fase Final.

I’ve posted the original Spanish because the language and exact words used here are important. The translation is as follows:

“The clubs have an obligation to utilize on the pitch a minimum two players menores formed in Mexico to accumulate 180 minutes per game in the group stage and all of the games in Final stage.”

Menores are defined later in the rules as someone born January 1, 1999 or later. What everyone agreed on is that the rules state that menores must play at least 180 minutes in a game for the match. What wasn’t agreed on was whether there had to be two menores on the pitch at all times for the minutes to count.

In the game, Tijuana started three menores: Antonio Nava, Luis Martínez, and Daniel López. López was subbed out in the 45th minute for Nahuelpán, and Nava was subbed out in the 60th for Miller Bolaños. Martínez would play the entire game for Tijuana, but he was the lone menor on the pitch from the 60th minute on.

In total the three menores played 195 minutes, however if the rules stated that two had to be on the pitch for the minutes to count, Xolos would only have 165 minutes - 15 short of the 180 required. If this was found to be the case it would be a violation of the rules, and Monarcas would have been awarded a 3-0 victory and progressed into the next round.

Copa MX would clarify later in the afternoon that it did not require two menores on the pitch for the minutes to count, and Tijuana’s win was valid. People (myself included) were quick to point out that the rule was poorly worded. Of course you have to have two players to play 180 minutes - it is impossible for one player to accumulate that many minutes in a game.

But there isn’t anything that says the players have to all be on the pitch at the same time. If that was the intent, it’s not explicitly spelled out and Tijuana would have had a strong argument that the score should stand. And while the rules may seek to spell this out clearly in the 2019 Apertura tournament, for now teams can accumulate the minutes as they see fit.