With a lot of fanfare, pomp, circumstance, flashing lights, and even confetti, the newly branded Liga MX, Ascenso MX (2nd division), and Copa MX were launched yesterday in Mexico City.
Important people gave speeches. Logos were unveiled, as well as a code of ethics and an anthem, to be played before every game. Suits, refs, and players all made solemn promises. Soon after the ceremony, the league launched its official website.
The point system, as expected, was not changed. The liguilla will still be played with the top 8 teams. There will still be 11 playing 11 on the field. The halves will still be 45 minutes a piece. A goal will still count as one unit.
So what did change?
The Copa MX has been added for one. And for the first 6 weeks of the season, there will be mid-week cup games played before an 8 team knock-out tournament will determine the champion.
As we mentioned before, the first tie-braker in the post season will be away goals, eliminating the "all the higher seed needs is a tie" element of the post season.
Probably the biggest change that will have an immediate impact is that any post-match disciplinary action will now take into account video footage, and not rely solely on the ref's post game report.
The new League honcho, Decio De Maria laid out some goals as well. They want to improve attendance, ratings, and stadia. Ambitious, to be sure, and certainly not something that was going to be transformed overnight. He also wants to ensure that it's the players that are the stars of the show - not the announcers, or the refs, or the coaches, or the team owners.
What didn't change was the extreme cynicism with which all this was received by both the press and the fans. Many saw this as nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig... nothing more than the same ol' same ol' from the usual suspects... every move the FMF makes is the wrong one.... Most of the Mexican Media see the local league as god awful, using as their basis of comparison always La Liga, particularly, Real Madrid vs Barcelona.
Their impression of the local league has not changed since the 80s, nor has their impression of Concacaf.
Those of you who read this space on a regular basis know that I am not the biggest fan of the market makers in Mexican soccer. But as hard as I am on them, I have to recognize that they are finally making an effort to improve their product on the field. If the players are good, then the footie is good. Everything else will follow, especially the increased revenue. Incorporating the somewhat forgotten Second Division into a decent competition is a move in the right direction.
It is apparent that Mexico's youth system has been producing some very talented players over the past few years, as evidenced by their success at the international level. Unfortunately for youngsters, coaches are very hesitant (perhaps because they know better than anyone that a 3-game losing streak could put their job at risk) to give the greenhorns minutes in a league game. The midweek Copa MX fixtures, then, provide the appropriate stage for the teams younger players to log some field time. It may turn out that the 20 year-old bench warmer might have a little more game than the 34 year-old fossil.
The newly branded league gets going Friday night with a double header: Jaguares vs Tigres and Puebla visits TJ.
Copa MX kicks off next week.