Key questions facing Mexican football
ESPN FC's Tom Marshall tackles the big issues surrounding Mexican football by answering some Twitter questions from the week:
@mexicoworldcup what concerns do you have with Mexico going into qualifiers and Copa America?- Josesito (@SantosMoso20) February 7, 2016
For the Copa America Centenario this summer, Mexico is well set for a good tournament. Despite the changes in management in 2015, what really came through was the spirit of the current squad.
Most the players know each other well, are at a good age, the balance of the squad is good and the form of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez coupled with the way Jesus "Tecatito" Corona is developing are major positives.
Like most national teams, Mexico will need some luck with injuries, but El Tri will also be at its home away from home (the United States) and is good enough to go toe-to-toe and give a difficult game to any other national team on the American continent.
Qualifying poses a different set of complications with the tricky away trips, the cross-Atlantic travel for the Europe-based players and managing the expectations of a press and fan-base that demands victories against so-called lesser nations.
Mexico shouldn't have any problems getting into the Hexagonal, but CONCACAF is perhaps more competitive than ever with the improvement of the Caribbean nations (particularly Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago).
The main concern would be if a couple of results go badly and the pressure starts to build on Juan Carlos Osorio, who is known for making decisions that go against the grain. How the Colombian deals with pressure in what is by far the biggest job he has ever had will be interesting. We saw how quickly the wheels can fall off with Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre in 2013.
@mexicoworldcup where do you see Mexican football in ten years ? League, NT, youth, and exporting players to Europe- MT Sports (@MtSportsLV) February 7, 2016
Big question! With the improvement in a lot -- certainly not all -- Liga MX youth systems over the last 10 or so years, more young Mexicans will move to Europe between now and 2026.
It is unlikely to ever get to the same level as Brazilians or Argentines -- Liga MX wages will make sure of that -- but the youngsters being produced now in Mexico are more worldly and much likelier to succeed playing abroad than any previous generation. European clubs will focus more on Mexico as a market to scout and buy players in line with success stories like Corona and Miguel Layun.
As for the league itself, the potential to really mix it up and compete with European leagues is massive. We are seeing a better quality of foreign import with the likes of Andre-Pierre Gignac, Edwin Cardona and Guido Pizarro. On paper, the Liga MX could become the league of the Americas. It certainly has the money to develop along that route.
Unfortunately, there isn't enough evidence from those running the league to suggest that the vision and organization is there to steer and develop it down that path. The opposite could be said of Major League Soccer. It is the northern league that has the organization and unapologetic ambition, but the Liga MX that has the better platform to build from. A mix of both would be ideal!
Finally, the Mexican national team should be fine, although it may increasingly clash with the development of the Liga MX, especially with the issue of foreign-born players.
Restricting foreign imports could reduce the potential of the league to attract big names, but would probably benefit the national team. It is a fine balance and a debate sweeping the game at present.
Mexico has been remarkably consistent -- six consecutive round of 16 appearances at World Cups tells you that -- in terms of being a decent team over the last few decades. What it needs now (as before) is continuity to help El Tri fulfill its potential.
El Tri: Is there a player that the national team has ignored? Somebody who has been overlooked? https://t.co/OEi4PRePtG- Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol) February 8, 2016
You could throw a few names out like Monterrey goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, Pachuca's Jorge Hernandez or Pumas' Javier Cortes.
In reality, however, the way Mexico's national team works means there aren't many that slip through the net. Games like Wednesday's against Senegal use squads made exclusively of Liga MX players and the Under-23s are meeting regularly ahead of the Olympics.
When the Europe-based players are available, I think the Mexico national team has become increasingly easy to pick, considering what a great season many of them are having in the Old Continent.
One name worth throwing out there is Pedro Arce. The 24-year-old midfielder from Coahuila has been making a name for himself with Veria in Greece and Osorio has mentioned that he is following him closely.
@mexicoworldcup do you see the league format changing at any point in the future (5-20 yrs.)? As in back to long season + playoffs- Albert Bubba Alfaro (@a_alfaro31) February 7, 2016
It is very difficult to see. The fundamental reason for that is that it is the Liga MX owners have little interest in making it that way. More playoff games for them means more income and excitement around the Liga MX.
Would change of format be good? There are obviously pros and cons, but the playoff system is deeply ingrained in Mexican soccer culture and it'd be difficult to change.
Having two seasons per year, however, does seem to slightly diminish the end product. It isn't as easy to promote a final and championships are dished out every six months. On the plus side, the system and focus on the short-term seems to even up the Liga MX. Compared to most leagues in the world with a standard league system, the parity in Mexico is striking. Even the worst teams have an outside chance.
This is a complicated one because CONCACAF and its Champions League is always going to take priority over a CONMEBOL competition for Mexican sides.
CONCACAF wouldn't allow the Liga MX champion to compete in the Libertadores at the expense of the CCL. And why should it? That may seem like a blunt answer, but Mexico belongs to CONCACAF and is the big money-spinner when it comes to the region's competitions at league and international level.
So unless someone really wants to put forward some radical proposals like the Americas having one continental club competition or Mexico joining CONMEBOL, the best (assuming that means the champion) Mexican teams will not be in the Copa Libertadores.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.