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The Mexican League Final and Some Thoughts About Mexican Football


The Mexican League is the most popular league in the United States. More popular than our domestic league, MLS (with which it is often compared), more popular than the Premier League and more popular than La Liga. This may be hard to believe for some but the TV ratings and even merchandise sales bare out this harsh reality. I do watch Mexican Football from time to time but rarely if ever watch an entire match and hardly ever with more than a passing interest.

I sat through almost the full 90:00 of yesterday’s first leg of the Mexican Apetura Final (I was switching off at times with the Villanova-LSU Basketball game) and have some comparisons with MLS to make based on the final

• Cuahatomac Blanco has said MLS is much more physical than the Mexican League. No argument here. It seems even in the finals defenders would rather back off than tackle. However, the skillful work of some of the defenders in dispossesing the attacking player or winning the ball without tackling impressed me.

• The MLS particularly in the playoffs is played at a much faster, frenzied pace. During the summer in the heat MLS is slow but not as slow as the Mexican League. Frenzied pace isn’t always better though as I’ll point out later.

• The technical skills in the Mexican League are about a thousand times better than MLS. No bad giveaways, no defensive breakdowns and teams playing discipline in-line offensive traps was very refreshing to see when compared to the often shambolic mess of MLS at the back.

• Tactically speaking the Mexican League is much better. Players were all on the same page and organized. While MLS is more often or not better to watch than the Mexican League is is not better soccer and that’s the bottom line. All you need to do in this case since both leagues are highly domestic in nature is compare Mexico’s strong international record to the US’ mediocre and mixed one. Also consider thanks to the MLS growing obsession with foreign players and continued restrictive roster rules that the best young American players who could be the spine of the nation’s greatest generation are almost all playing overseas already before the age of 20! (Some obvious exceptions here but most Mexican talent save an exceptional one like Carlos Vela or a Nery Castillio develop at hime)

A number of comparisons of results between MLS clubs and Mexican clubs have been made. The results are pretty easy to explain. American clubs play better on US soil during its season and Mexican clubs play better on their soil during their season. What does however separate the leagues is that the overall talent pool in Mexico is deeper and technical ability which for the most part is completely lacking in American players is evident in most Mexicans. (This is a similar comparison between the English and the Italians. The English have more energy and play a more exciting brand of Football than the Italians, but I wonder why a nation with so much footballing history as England still doesn’t teach the technical side of the game at the level of most other European nations. No offense to anyone but the English players technical abilities are some of the worst I’ve seen in Europe despite having so much talent, whereas Italy wins titles largely because of the technique of its players and the tactical savvy of its managers. The same can be said for Holland whose relatively small population has supported a footballing power for almost 40 years now through great teaching and tactical know how )

The Mexican League I would compare favorably to any league I’ve seen in the Americas. I believe the quality is better than the Argentine League since the game is played at a reasonable pace and the organization seems better. It is however lacking in the intensity that ANY major European league has. Perhaps this is why Manager Hugo Sanchez wants his best players in Europe. Watching even mid-level American players like Benny Feilhaber, Charlie Davies and Lee Nguyen develop on European soil rightfully has Sanchez concerned that the US is closing the gap on Mexico in the CONCACAF region.


About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →