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Desperation breeds competition in Liga MX

Rodolfo Cota and Puebla are turning their relegation worries into hopes of a title run.
Rodolfo Cota and Puebla are turning their relegation worries into hopes of a title run.

LOS ANGELES, CA. -- While Club America manager Gustavo Matosas' "Ferrari" may or may not start up and while Tigres head coach Ricardo "El Tuca" Ferretti sends unfortunate signals from the Estadio Jalisco box, "others," from another dimension, are standing up for the Mexican championship.

It is neither America nor Tigres. The new landscape of the Mexican season is born of necessity, a necessity from which we can learn, develop and change. It is strange and mysterious, but Mexican soccer has three teams whose initial budget seemed only enough for a desperate and agonizing struggle to avoid relegation but who are now in playoffs position.

Are they from this world or another? No one knows for sure. Some experts considered Veracruz, given the names on its roster and the uncertainty surrounding it as a soccer franchise, as the top candidate for relegation. But it maintains an impressive winning streak that earned it the honor of spending one night, past the season's halfway point, as the overall leader of the competition.

Something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, is happening with Puebla. It has rallied admirably since the arrival of the new coach, "El Profe" Jose Guadalupe Cruz. Even Chivas, wobbling along, display a new kind of soccer and take the lead on the field in a different way. Add to that the fact that Leones Negros was able to defeat America at the Azteca Stadium and beat Tigres in Jalisco this past Sunday - they have essentially defeated two best funded teams in Mexican soccer. There is no doubt that the battle to avoid relegation belongs to another dimension.

The question is, or rather the questions are: What kind of motivations or instincts have taken over these teams to give us a season diametrically opposed to the one that was foreseen? Is it necessity? Competitiveness? The will to survive? Pressure? Anguish? Desperation?

While revealing another of its many irregular and capricious aspects, the Mexican season may be teaching us a powerful lesson: competition and the need to compete always lead to improvement in any area of life. Here this has turned morbidity and expectation into the dramatic motivation which we experience every weekend.

The "low teams" (the ones fighting to avoid relegation) have set an example and created a different formula for making the season more attractive and dramatic. Today, now that they say the structure and infrastructure of the promotion league clubs have grown, why not promote -- as is done in most leagues in the world -- a greater participation in the issue of relegation and promotion? Relegating two teams and promoting two more could offer us more powerful competition on the field. It could in the end lead to events like those we have witnessed over the last few weeks, where teams that had nothing more to give on the field or in spirit wound up offering us an attractive competitive landscape.

David Faitelson is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.


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