A couple of days ago, it was confirmed by both the Liga MX and Ascenso MX (2nd Division) that the latter has officially played out its final minutes of life, as the season currently on pause has been cancelled and the title will be vacated, as well as owners voting 7 to 5 in favor of the league’s format as we know it ceasing to exist, and transforming into the Liga de Desarrollo, which main function will be to, as its name states, develop young players.
Now, this is not news to anyone who knows a bit about Mexican soccer. A few years back, the FMF began to slowly strangle the Ascenso MX teams, by conditioning their status of being promotable or not being promotable to Liga MX. They did this by placing a minimum of spectators their stadium must be able to hold, and if said number was not met, they were not promotion-worthy. Absolutely ridiculous. And those measures had quick results, as teams have slowly been jumping ship, knowing they have no future in the league, to the point where there were only 12 teams actively participating in the current season. This was just the Federation finishing their play.
If you try and compare the consequences of this decision, the negatives easily outweigh the positives. First off, roughly around 70% of the players will lose their jobs, thanks to them being over the age of 23, which is the Liga de Desarrollo new age limit. This kills many of those players and coaches dreams as well of one day making it to the top tier in Mexico football and having a chance to be seen by the entire nation. Or for some players and coaches, a chance return to First Division. Not to mention all of the fans that are being forgotten as well.
When it comes to competition, all of the teams in the lower half of the Liga MX will no longer have the pressure of giving it their all when the season is more than halfway through, because there is no punishment for finishing last. And just as well, there is now no real reason or incentive to watch an Ascenso MX game.
It’s no secret this isn’t a competitive-based decision. But as I run through this situation over and over, I’ve only been able to come up with one possible positive outcome that this move could bring to Mexican football: stability. And I don’t mean that in the sense of players being conformists because of their being no relegation (that is of course a negative). I mean the economic stability that we see in American sports leagues like the NFL, MLB, NBA, and even MLS. After all, that is the FMF’s intention; mimic the United States in their sports business model. If we focus particularly on the MLS, it has slowly grown and become a very attractive league for the best players in the world, as we begin to see better and better players coming over from Europe, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic recently.
And the fact of there being no risk for a team in Liga MX to lose its status could possibly attract serious owners to the league, as this would allow them to properly plan a future by investing in their team and expecting real results, instead of fearing them being relegated and deciding to hold on to their money instead. Perhaps teams like Puebla, Atlas, Queretaro, etc, could have bigger roles in the league if their league status was reassured the way that it has been?
When Slim invested in Grupo Pachuca a few years back, it got them three titles (Leon - 2, Pachuca - 1), in just a 5-year run. Could more Liga MX teams replicate what was done by Grupo Pachuca if they knew their league status is unchangeable? I don’t think anyone would complain if the Liga MX could become a league that attracts World-Class talent, such as the MLS is starting to. But could the result of this Ascenso MX decision really give Mexico a football league that is both economically and competitively as strong and healthy as we see in American sports leagues? Only time will tell.