Soccer officials hope the changes serve to promote greater interest and encourage teams to take the Cup more seriously.
The Mexican Soccer Federation continues to tweak the Copa MX which will now be held only once per year.
Mexico’s league Cup tournament has had a spotty history. During the amateur era, the Copa was held from 1907 through 1926, and returned from 1932 through 1942.
The professional era began in 1942 and the Copa was held once a year from then until 1997. Then the tournament was scrapped, finally being restored in 2012 with two short season tournaments each year. The league sought to make the Copa MX a prestigious event, but too many teams dismissed it as a waste of time.
Beginning with the Apertura 2018 Copa MX, the league added a new rule, aimed at promoting the development of young players. Each team was required to use at least two academy players in each game, and the players had to be under 20 years of age. The rule mandated that young players had to be given at least 180 minutes of action in each game.
While some teams used Copa MX matches to allow back-ups and rehabbing players to work on fitness, others liberally inserted their academy players. It was evident that some teams saw the opportunity to allow their youngsters to gain valuable experience by playing alongside first-team players, and to face veteran opponents in “official” matches. But other teams simply viewed the Copa MX as a nuisance.
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Over the summer, league officials reacted to complaints from some managers that the demands were too great on their teams. So beginning with the Apertura 2019, the Copa MX will be a year-long tournament.
This time, the field features 15 Liga MX teams (the four teams participating the Concacaf Champions League were left out, including defending champs América) and 12 Ascenso MX teams. The teams were drawn into nine groups of three and each team plays the other two teams in its group both home and away.
The round-robin group stage ends in early November, spreading the games out a little further.
The nine group winners and the seven best second-place teams advance to a knockout stage with the higher seed playing at home in the single-elimination format.
The final is scheduled for April 15.