As a fan of Liga MX you become accustomed to quality matches week in and week out with the occasional hard watch. Ascenso was a league that lost its meaning with every passing year.
Fans of Ascenso team knew what came with watching Ascenso matches every weekend throughout the season. It was not easy, searching for links on social media and seeing if there was a local stream available became part of the Ascenso fan experience. All of this is baked into the cake and does not take away from the emotional investment that every city pours into its club. Nevertheless, it was no surprise after watching a couple of matches that recently promoted teams struggled in the top flight. The quality of play in Ascenso is hard to watch at times with defensive errors being the main catalyst for scoring opportunities.
In some matches, Ascenso seemed like a league that was built for those players who couldn’t quite make it in the top flight but were still grasping at the straws for the last taste of glory. Four years passed and not only did the quality not improve but you kept on seeing the same players on different clubs. All veterans who were hiding from Father Time by playing in the Ascenso. Certain fans up north prayers were answered when Juarez was able to move up to the top flight but a harsh reality when it became certain that Ascenso would be discontinued for the time being.
It’s important for there to be promotion and relegation to maintain competitiveness and avoid tanking. But in the case of Mexico, very few teams saw themselves staying for more than two years after promotion. The last examples being Leon and Queretaro who have established themselves as Liga Mx clubs. But these are few the case with Veracruz, Dorados, Leones Negros, and Lobos BUAP not being able to sustain their stay in the top flight. With this we pivot to the main argument, the creating of a developmental league for Mexican players under 23 years of age is a greater good for the future of Mexican soccer than the saving of Ascenso teams, at least for the time being. Let me lay out why.
The quality of play in Ascenso was bad
Ascenso was no longer breeding the future of Mexican soccer. It had become the retirement home of many Liga MX veterans who no longer had the quality to play in the top flight. Liga MX clubs would send their youths down to Ascenso but these players would rarely see the time. Ascenso teams were correctly more concerned with promotion and saw the only way of achieving this goal by playing veterans and international players.
The establishment of Ascenso as a retirement home greatly impacted the quality of play. Many second divisions around the world have soccer that is of quality and that boasts the next generation of stars in that country. That is not the case for Mexico. Ascenso is plagued with players hiding from father time and anyone who makes the case that Ascenso was where Mexican players went to go develop simply hasn’t watched an Ascenso match in years.
The case for a development league can only be made with substantial changes to international players rule
A developmental league in Mexico only works if there is a plan in place or a framework that allows players to develop in that league with a call up being made in the future where they can become a regular in Liga MX play. For comparison, I would suggest the Mexican federation takes the approach of a farm system like the MLB or the G-League like the NBA. Adopting this framework allows for young players to get substantial minutes in the developmental league and allows for the possibility of call-ups when a Copa match arrives or when a player gets injured. This system though does not reap its full benefits without a revision to the current international players rule.
To allow for young Mexican players to develop and then move up to the top flight you need to modify the rules for there to be a benefit in the developmental league. This transforms the developmental league from a place to send players who don’t play to an actual farm system where the development of a player is closely followed to prepare them for the top flight. In preparing for the top flight the modification to the international player’s rule would make a team much more dependent on this farm system with more emphasis being put on the players that are sent to play there and how they are molded.
This in turn cements the future of Mexican soccer and of the Mexican National Team. The next generation will have been molded and then seen quality minutes at the top flight. A Liga MX developmental league may not be the hot idea right now with the likes of Liga Balompie being started up to almost replace Ascenso but an objective mind should be able to see the benefits it presents for every club in the top flight and for the Mexican National team.
When it was announced that Ascenso would be put on hold many revolted at the idea. I was one of them as well. As the reports came out of a developmental league I progressively became much more intrigued by this idea. Just look at how many stars in the MLB play minor league baseball before getting into the big leagues. The implementation of this league allows teams to invest more money in homegrown talent but also allows them to save money by not having to buy international players when they can just develop their own players.
Getting rid of promotion and relegation is and will always be a bad idea but the restructuring into a developmental league may prove to reap benefits that no other country has experienced in the past. The business of Liga MX is money-driven and power-hungry but as I laid out here, they may have struck gold with this idea of implemented the right way.