After Mexico qualified for the world cup last fall, it didn’t take very long for FEMEXFUT to trumpet its ambitious preparation program. 12 friendlies, and a 60 day training camp was what was announced. And the teams that were in negotiations for those friendlies? Well, the list read like the Vanity Fair Oscars after party invite list. The local league would lose its world cup players a full month before the season is over. The majority of the friendlies, of course, would be played in the US.
And then Mexico would waltz into Soccer City and spoil the debut of the local team, on their way to yet another berth in the knockouts.
A funny thing happened on the way to the mundial.
It is now mid-January, and nothing has been completed or confirmed. SUM, TV rights, and everything else that has nothing to do with the action on the pitch has gotten in the way of those ambitious plans.
FMF is contractually obligated to play a handful of games in the US. But does it have to include the only FIFA friendly date on the calendar? What European team wants to cross the Atlantic, and then the continental US to play a game in the Rose Bowl for a midweek friendly? Why can’t Mexico head the other way?
Negotiations were running hot and heavy to have Mexico play England at Wembley. That is, until TV rights got in the way. Telemundo has the rights to broadcast Mexico games in the US. But the FA has their own TV rights deal in the US. Good luck sorting that one out. It would have been nice to see Mexico play in Wembley again.
And what about playing in Mexico? Well, Jorge Vergara would love for Mexico to play a game at his new stadium in Guadalajara. When it is ready. Whenever that is.
In my debut blog, I wrote about FMF and SUM. And, two years later, the same holds true.
It’s nice to have such an ambitious prep plan, but FMF’s dilemma is unique, at least in the world of footie. Rare is the country whose TV rights garner a bigger payout in a neighboring country. Mexican footie is big in the US. I would even dare to say that only the NFL, MLB, and NBA bring in bigger ratings (as far as professional leagues). In most weeks, at least 7 of the league’s 9 games are on broadcast channels. It’s big business. And it keeps getting in the way of the greater good.
FMF should maximize their exposure in the northern market, but they should also use common sense when it comes to scheduling, especially in a world cup year.
They can still schedule solid teams outside of the FIFA calendar. South Korea, Honduras, Paraguay, and New Zealand can all field decent teams outside of the FIFA schedule. The stadiums in the US will fill up whoever Mexico plays.
But the FIFA cannot be wasted, not when every world cup team will be at full strength. No team is going to want to travel for 12 plus hours for a midweek friendly in the Rose Bowl when they don’t have to. But Mexico always has their clubs' support if they ask to release players a few days early if they have to travel abroad.
Money lost by not playing a game in the US should be considered an opportunity cost. An opportunity to improve the product and get a much better return on their investment.