In the spring of 2007, Club America was faced with a very tough decision. They had to decide which tournament would mean more to them. Which tournament should they allocate the majority of resources? Which tournament trophy would give them, their fans, and their owners more prestige? The local one, which they had won over 10 times, or the foreign one, which they (or any other Mexican side) had yet to win.
The decision was a no-brainer. Would Club America choose the glory of being the best of a continent, or just the best in the neighborhood? Naturally, they chose to go after being best in the neighborhood. Fielding mostly reserves, they crashed out of the Libertadores when they could not hang on to an away goal tie vs. Santos. To add insult to injury, they were done in by Pachuca in the finals of the local competition a few weeks later.
It is a dilemma that most Mexican teams face. If they are in both the local playoff, la liguilla, and in the Libertadores, which one should get the royal treatment? Which one gets the sloppy seconds? Sadly, they seem to always lean toward the local championship.
I say "sadly" because Mexico politicked the CONMEBOL heavily to be included in the Libertadores. Mexico has good combination: competitive teams, and lots of eyeballs that can be exposed to sponsor messages. So why is it that Mexican clubs treat the Libertadores like an afterthought, especially since they lobbied so much just to be included?
This year, of the three teams that participated, only 2 are left. One of those, Atlas, may have to participate in both. The other, America, was eliminated from contention long ago in the local tourney. The third team, CD Guadalajara, was eliminated in the group stage of the Libertadores, but they stand atop the table in the local league. Very strange!
I was very happy for Mexican soccer when they successfully gained entry into the most prestigious club tournament in the Americas. Some teams have gotten close, but after 10 years, a Mexican club has yet to kiss the Copa. The biggest obstacle? The teams themselves. The past has shown that if a team is in both tournaments, they always opt for the local one. It does not make sense to me. Being the local champion is nice, but being a Continental champion is so much better. Especially considering that one season has two local tournaments.
Can the Femexfut do anything to make things easier? Doubtful. The Femexfut does not side with the teams; they side with the TV stations. There have been instances when a team had to play a Liguilla game the same night as a Libertaodres leg. No surprises. The Femexfut is hardly the vanguard federation when it comes to advancing the sport.
If it were up to me, I would reduce the liguilla to 4 teams. Moreover, if my team was in both, I would throw all my eggs in the Libertadores basket.