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Queretaro's Ruiz, 17, finds self in sudden spotlight

 By Nayib Moran

Seven Liga MX players vying for a spot in Mexico's World Cup squad

When creating this list of Liga MX players vying for a World Cup roster spot for Mexico, several factors must be taken into account. For starters, many have yet to receive minutes with Juan Carlos Osorio's team, while others have gotten a good number of looks. El Tri's Gold Cup participation last summer was definitive in boiling down the number of probabilities.

However, heading into the new year as a Liga MX-based Mexico team is set to be announced in the upcoming days for a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Osorio already has a good amount of his 23-man roster finalized. The squad might still require minor tweaks, but when looking at the teams that participated in the Copa America Centenario in 2016 and the Confederations Cup, the number of familiar faces stand out.

With this in mind, here are seven Liga MX-based players who could potentially get in Osorio's final World Cup list in the last minute. In order to reach this goal, they'll need to be outstanding in the upcoming Clausura, and if they get called up for the January and March friendlies, they'll need to stand out with their game and leadership:

Jonathan Gonzalez, CDM/RM, Monterrey

In a couple of days, FIFA could confirm to the Mexican Football Federation Gonzalez's switch from the United States national team to the Mexican federation, which would allow the 18-year-old to take part in this month's friendly. Gonzalez is a work in progress, and his direct competition for a World Cup spot will be fierce because the challengers are midfielders such as Jonathan dos Santos, Jesus Duenas and even Omar Govea. Even if he doesn't make Mexico's World Cup roster, there's a good feeling that Gonzalez will become one of the country's standouts for years to come.

Carlos Vargas, CB, Club America

There's not a Mexican defender right now who has the best understanding of the role of left marker as Vargas has shown since early December. As explained by defenders such as Carlos Salcedo and Edson Alvarez, Osorio doesn't see the full-backs as players that are required to participate much in the attack. The Colombian sees the full-backs as markers, and with Miguel "Piojo" Herrera's America, that's exactly what Vargas has been told to execute. He is a left-back who doesn't get forward much and is mostly consistent with his interventions in one-on-one challenges. He can also play as center-back. It will be interesting to see if Osorio includes him in the roster for the San Antonio friendly.

Jonathan Gonzalez, a U.S. youth international who recently announced his intention to join Mexico, could soon make his El Tri debut.

Jesus Gallardo, LB/LW, Pumas

Even though Gallardo participated in 16 games for El Tri in 2017, there's no guarantee that he will make the final squad. What makes Gallardo an intriguing prospect is that with Pumas he plays as left winger and even scores goals, as he did in Week 1 in Pumas' 3-2 victory over Pachuca, but with Osorio's Mexico, he usually is set at the left-back position. His versatility gives him an edge, and if he's able to improve his finishing and final pass, the 23-year-old could be heading to Russia.

Jesus Duenas, CDM/RM, Tigres

It seems like Duenas' turbulent summer, which prevented him from fully taking part in Mexico's games in June, has weakened his World Cup hopes. Nevertheless, he is one of Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's favorite midfielders in Tigres' squad, which includes a talented playmaker in Lucas Zelarayan. Osorio tends to call in players from Tigres, the league's champions, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Duenas' name in the upcoming call-up.

Rodolfo Pizarro, CAM, Chivas

Giovani dos Santos' contributions with El Tri have seen a major drop, which puts his World Cup participation in serious doubt. In this battle for Giovani's place on the national team, Pizarro comes out as one of the leading candidates. But in order to solidify his candidacy, he needs to be more active with Chivas. He has to score goals and provide assists, which would help Guadalajara to be among the top eight in the table.

Victor Guzman, CAM, Pachuca

Guzman is entering 2018 as one of Mexico's hottest goalscorers. His eight goals in the Apertura have given him the opportunity to earn a Mexico call-up this month. His goalscoring abilities are undeniable, but when it comes to his creativity, he's not as sharp as Pizarro. A season with 10-plus goals, though, could cause Osorio to find him a place in the final roster.

Hugo Ayala, CB, Tigres

Alongside someone like Cesar Montes, Ayala will be battling for a Word Cup place. The 30-year-old has had a successful Liga MX trajectory but hasn't been able to carry it to the national team. Ayala's experience and recent success with Ferretti's Tigres make him a strong candidate to take over one of the final center-back slots in the team, especially if Rafael Marquez isn't able to make it.

Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.


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