The play-ins to the Copa Libertadores have concluded, setting the stage for next week's group play.
All three of Mexico’s invitees are still in it. Club America and San Luis have been there before. Jaguares de Chiapas are making their first appearance.
Jaguares are relative newbies in the world of futbol. They have been playing as Chiapas in Mexico’s top flight since 2002. In that time, they have won nothing.
Not a salchicha.
Tueday night, then, was a big night for the Chiapan side and their fans, as they won their play-in with Alianza Lima to advance to the group stage of the Copa Libertadores. 4-0 on aggregate.
It is easily one of their biggest wins, if not their biggest in their history. And with Necaxa all but assured relegation, Jaguares, who are flirting just a skosh with the drop zone, have no reason to send watered down squads to the Libertadores.
That has been one of my biggest pet-peeves about Mexican participation in the Libertadores. Some teams just don’t seem to give it the attention it deserves, which is a shame. Especially when one considers how hard FMF worked just to get the invites to the tournament.
Last year, Monterrey was a defending champion in the local league playing in the South American tournament. One would think they would have been considered a favorite. But Victor Vucetich opted to play the first few games with a reserve squad, achieving less than stellar results.
They never dug out the hole and crashed out of the group stage.
Sure, there have been teams that enjoyed a little success sending the B team. Club America eliminated Flamengo at the Maracana a few years ago.
A year earlier, Club America found itself with games in the Liguilla and the Libertadores the same week. The Ligullla took precedent, and the reserves were defeated by Santos in Brazil.
America didn't win the liguilla either.
So, please, Jaguares, America, and San Luis – take the tournament seriously. Give the tournament the respect it deserves even if it means sacrificing local glory. Remember, you’ll get another chance at the local competition in three months. Who knows when another shot at the most prestigious club tournament in the Americas will materialize. If ever.