Mexico’s Big Four: Myth and Reality

Memo Ochoa hopes to lead Club America to a title

Mexico’s Clausura (this season named Torneo Bicentenario, in celebration of Mexico’s Bicentennial) kicked off last weekend, and something strange happened. Something that hadn’t happened since matchday 6 of the 2007 Apertura.

The Big four (America, Cruz Azul, Guadalajara and Pumas) all won. Just the fact all four teams won in the same week for the first time in 6 tournaments should tell us that these big 4 are named as such for reputation and past heroics than their current spells. Since the FMF went to the short season schedule, these teams have combined to win only 8 titles (in 28 seasons so far). But in that time, the teams have combined to make an obscene amount of coaching changes.

So are they really the big four? When you compare them to other leagues, the answer is an unequivocal no. In most other leagues, one of the top teams wins their league every year. But, those teams don’t have a post-season gauntlet to run through like the teams in Mexico have to endure. That certainly has a lot to do with it.

Club America and Guadalajara have combined to win 21 titles in Mexican futbol and are the only two charter members of the professional league that have never descended into the lower ranks. But only 3 of those titles have come after 1990. Their fans like to talk about their club’s dominance, but the fact is Club America has yet to replicate their success since the short short days of the 80s. And Guadalajara fans talk of “el campeonisimo as if it happened yesterday. Yes, Guadalajara won 8 titles in short period of time. But that time was also when the world was in black and white. They have won 3 titles since those glory days that ended in 1970. But they have made 19 coaching changes since the short seasons started in 1996. Campeonisimo indeed!!

Cruz Azul also has a golden age in its history. The Cementeros absolutely owned the 1970s. But have only won one title since, and that was in 1997. Unfortunately for them, though, they have been runners up in three of the last 4 tournaments. Pumas UNAM has won three short season titles to go with their previous 3. Pumas fans have always hung their hats on the fact that the Mexico’s most talented players have emerged from the UNAM youth system. But that well has been a little dry as of late. For years, the base of Mexico’s national team was rooted in Pumas’ youth system. That is no longer the case.

These four teams are still Mexico’s most popular (Chivas and America are far more popular than even Cruz Azul and Pumas). But their popularity is mostly based on what they once were, not where they are today. In today’s Mexican football, the standard of excellence has been set by two other teams: Toluca and Pachuca. These two have combined to win 11 short season titles. Pachuca also has Mexico’s only South American trophy. You don’t have to dig very deep to see when was the last time these two teams won in the same weekend.