New Liga MX Rule Changes: NFM Explained

New Liga MX rules were announced, and here we will look to break them down.
Henry Martín #21, of Club America lifts the Liga MX...
Henry Martín #21, of Club America lifts the Liga MX... / Eyepix Group/GettyImages

The 2024 Apertura season gets underway in little more than two weeks, and new rules have been confirmed. If clubs fail to comply with such rules, they will be in danger of fines or point reductions.

The NFM (No Formados en Mexico), otherwise referred to as NFM has updated its rules ahead of the upcoming 2024/25 campaign. The NFM focuses on foreign and young talent playing in Mexico, with a freshened look being announced to provide more clarity for clubs going into the new season. The slogan being tagged to these changes is 'Evolution 30', the mission for Liga MX to be in a much better position for young talent by 2030.

What is the NFM?

The website GOAL breaks down in great detail what the NFM consists of, but to summarise. The NFM was created after Veracruz previously registered 17 foreign players, preventing Mexican development in the league.

The NFM allows any individual, before the age of 18, to register as a player trained in Mexico before the age of 18, regardless of your nationality. Conversely, if you do not register before the 18, even as a Mexican national, you will be considered a player not trained in Mexico.

What are the rules?

The first rule has put a limit on the number of non-trained in Mexico i.e. foreign players, being registered for a club.

Before the first kick of a ball in the season, each club must confirm how many non-trained Mexico players they will register. Below, you will be able to see the confirmed number for each club.

Chivas' tradition of only fielding Mexican players means that they will not opt to use any foreign players whilst Tigres, Toluca and Club Tijuana will welcome up to six non-trained in Mexico players.

The interesting aspect is that Pachuca, Juárez, Santos Laguna, Necaxa and Queretaro will register between 1-4 players.

The aim of this is twofold, to improve the quality of football within Mexico, and to provide greater opportunities for development for young Mexican talent who are rising through the ranks of Liga MX clubs.

A Summary of the Changes

1. Increased Minimum Playing Time: The required minimum playing time for eligible young players has been increased. Clubs now need to ensure that young players receive more minutes on the pitch throughout the season.

2. Lowered Age Limit: The age limit for players eligible under the NFM has been lowered, encouraging clubs to focus on even younger talents. The new age limit is now under 20 years old.

3. Enhanced Penalties for Non-Compliance: Stricter penalties have been introduced for clubs that fail to meet the NFM requirements. These include heavier fines, potential point deductions, and limitations on future player registrations.

4. Performance-Based Incentives: New performance-based incentives have been introduced. Clubs that not only meet but exceed the playing time requirements for young players could receive additional financial rewards, extra foreign player slots, or priority in youth tournaments.

5. Youth Development Benchmarks: Clubs are now required to meet specific benchmarks in their youth development programs. These benchmarks include the number of youth players progressing to the senior team, performance in youth leagues, and infrastructure investments in training facilities.

6. Mandatory Inclusion in Matchday Squads: A new rule mandates that a minimum number of eligible young players must be included in the matchday squad for each game. This ensures that young players are regularly involved in first-team activities.

7. Transfer and Loan Facilitations: The rules for transferring and loaning young players have been updated to encourage their development. Clubs are provided with more flexibility to loan out young players within Liga MX or to lower divisions, ensuring they get adequate playing time.

8. Monitoring and Transparency: Enhanced monitoring and reporting requirements have been put in place. Clubs must provide detailed reports on the playing time and development of young players, and the league will conduct regular audits to ensure compliance.

9. Collaboration with National Team Programs: Increased collaboration with national team youth programs has been established. This ensures that the development of young players aligns with the needs and strategies of the national teams, providing a pathway for international experience.

Problems with the New Changes

Reading the reviews from football fans and experts, there is a widespread cry for bigger changes to be made to the formatting of the league.

Whilst the growing focus on national development will always be welcome, many believe that the structure of the league needs a major overhaul. The first change that many want to see is for Mexican clubs to return to the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana.

The last time we saw Liga MX clubs compete in the South American competition was 2016. Pumas, Tigres and Puebla were involved in the last edition before the change was made for Mexican clubs to compete in the Leagues Cup, a tournament which started in 2019 with those from the United States.

Pumas UNAM v Independiente del Valle - Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2016
Pumas UNAM v Independiente del Valle - Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2016 / Miguel Tovar/GettyImages

The Mexican federation has defended its decision to withdraw from the continental competition by highlighting the reduced travel demands. Mexican teams previously faced journeys of 10 hours or more to face clubs from Argentina or Chile. Additionally, there are significant financial benefits from consistently competing with teams from the United States, advantages that the CONMEBOL tournament cannot match.

In addition to the desire to see Mexican clubs compete with the rest of South America, many fans are eager for the return of the promotion/relegation system. This system was suspended in 2020, with a review scheduled before the 2026 Apertura season, potentially paving the way for its reinstatement. The current league structure lacks competition in the lower half of the table, as teams that miss out on playoff spots have no consequences to worry about. Similarly, for clubs in the Liga MX de Expansión, winning the title offers no reward beyond the prestige of being the best in their division.

Another change that many are demanding is the return of the Copa MX. Discontinued in 2020, with Monterrey winning the final edition, this Mexican domestic cup has a rich tradition dating back to 1932 when Necaxa were the inaugural champions. Fans hope for its revival to allow first and second division clubs to compete against each other and offer struggling league teams a chance at alternative silverware.