Change, or at least the hopes to enact it, has been a recent theme in the Mexican soccer world.
As the 2026 World Cup (co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States) approaches, both Liga MX and the overarching Mexican Football Federation (FMF) have tinkered their internal structures to combat stagnation over the past few years.
That’s perhaps best personified by FMF commissioner Juan Carlos Rodriguez and his decision to fire Diego Cocca as men’s national team manager following a disastrous 3-0 loss to the United States in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals. Rodriguez replaced Cocca interim manager Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano, who had just days to prepare for the summer’s Gold Cup tournament.
The risk paid off. Mexico thrived in the competition and lifted the Gold Cup trophy earlier this month, and with some respect reclaimed in the region, Rodriguez now wants to make more significant and far-impacting changes.
Last week, Rodriguez detailed a wide-reaching strategy on what he wants Mexican soccer to accomplish in the future — touching on everything from getting Mexico players at European clubs and scheduling more competitive matches.
Expert advisors and training centers in the U.S.
Rodriguez highlighted four areas where they want to improve support: sports science, logistics and operations, Liga MX collaboration, and a group of expert advisors.
Specifically, with the group of expert advisors, Rodriguez wants to bring in coaches with national team experience (who have no conflict of interest with advising Mexico), former Mexican national team players, experts in sports science and “international figures” who have had success in the game.
Usually insulated from the outside voices, the move is an atypical one in Mexican soccer.
“One by one, they’re going to help us in the entire process, from the selection of sporting directors, the selection of coaches and accompanying the process to be able to judge and be able to measure the success of things,” said Rodriguez, who used next year’s Copa America as an example of when these advisors could help analyze performances and progress.
Rodriguez stressed that these names won’t be making any FMF decisions but will be involved in only consultation.
Looking over at logistics and operations, one interesting note was the plan to locate two locations in the U.S. that would be a part of Mexico’s training facility network.
“One on the East Coast of the United States, and another on the West Coast of the United States, that allows us to provide better fields for the players, better gyms, better spots where they can relax and have better nutrition,” Rodriguez said.
Why the U.S.? The national team simply plays more games north of the border. Due to contractual deals with Soccer United Marketing (SUM), Mexico plays numerous times in the U.S. and will continue to do so in the future.
The idea of having dedicated sites in the U.S. could make it easy to help scout and identify dual-nationals in the U.S., who wouldn’t have to travel to Mexico to train.
All that said, don’t expect the federation to announce a groundbreaking for a flashy new facility soon. Instead of building their own centers, they’re instead going to rely on partnerships with already established facilities.
“Today in the United States, there are universities, clubs, sporting entities that already have [facilities],” said Rodriguez, later adding that they’ll make more partnerships if needed for FMF-associated sites. “We’re not going to spend money, we’re going to make commercial agreements.”
Better friendlies and more players to Europe
One aspect of the national team that is often criticized are U.S.-based friendlies, regularly referenced by fans and media as partidos moleros, that are widely seen as cash-grab exhibitions against any opposition that is available.
Aiming for a creative solution that could help increase the level of play in these matches, Rodriguez is currently working on scheduling friendlies with elite South American clubs instead of lower-tier national teams.
“We’re going to sign at least two Argentine teams and two Brazilian teams, of a very high level, for non-FIFA dates to play in Mexico, the United States, or in Argentina and Brazil,” he said.
The plan is a promising one, although it remains to be seen when and where these matches happen.
As for players themselves, Rodriguez also laid out the most ambitious but challenging part of his plan — a possible framework to make partnerships with European associations that would potentially allow them to send a few 18-plus players, per Liga MX club, for two years abroad.
“We are focused on 18-year-olds so that they can have access to passports at an early age and be able to compete in Europe,” Rodriguez said. “I’m meeting in the following week with top bosses from other leagues and other federations to be able to reach cooperative agreements that would allow us to do that.”
If that seems too good to be true, it might be. This would require the agreement of Liga MX clubs in the first place and that plan still needs to be presented in the next owners meeting in the winter.
It will also be interesting to see which leagues or associations would agree to this deal. One can’t imagine that major European leagues would seriously consider this, and it was telling to hear Rodriguez use Spanish lower leagues outside of the top two divisions as an example of a possible destination.
Still, if Rodriguez could pull this off, it would be a massive win for his efforts.
So, is this anything different?
It’s important to note that there were other topics discussed, and some that weren’t even mentioned, from his all-encompassing plan:
- Mexican women’s soccer (“[a] great opportunity for growth”);
- Lozano’s future as permanent men’s coach (“that part is not up to me”);
- Changing Liga MX schedule to play in the Copa Libertadores (“of course, of course”);
- Opening up of national team broadcast rights in 2026, better pay for youth national team coaches, better opportunities for domestic coaches.
Nonetheless, as mentioned beforehand, this isn’t the first time that a leader within the Mexican soccer world has called or attempted to enact change within recent months. Rodriguez himself was a benefit of these shakeups, gaining his spot in May when Liga MX also introduced changes to its structure.
Still, Rodriguez made the right decision by firing Cocca and bringing in Lozano, and when looking at his wider plans announced this week, he should be given credit early for at least recognizing the areas that do genuinely need to be improved or fixed in Mexican soccer.
Despite the Gold Cup win for the men and the growth of women’s soccer through the up-and-coming Liga MX Femenil, we can’t forget the issues that both sides of the national team setup have had.
The women didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup or next year’s Olympics, and looking at the men, who also didn’t qualify for next year’s Olympics, there’s a well-accepted notion that they’ve lost their status as the top national team in the North American region. The problems go deeper when looking at Liga MX, which is in danger of being surpassed by the rapid development of MLS.
The easy part for Rodriguez is recognizing the complications and the reasons behind them. That’s the first few steps forward, but Mexico remains miles away from where it wants to be before 2026.
Source : ESPN