The Mexican Women's National Team Needs to Stop Depending on U.S. Based Players
Half of Mexico's World Cup team is based in the U.S. But the Mexican Football Federation is working toward creating a better infrastructure to produce more homegrown players.
Photo courtesy of miseleccion.mx
This story originally appeared on VICE Sports Mexico.
The Mexican Women's National Team remains a long ways from elite. Although their coach, Leonardo Cuéllar, has done vital work to strengthen the entire branch of women's national squads, there remains a great deal to be done, especially when it comes to player development.
The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) is one of FIFA's most profitable affiliated organisations, thanks to a spectacular business strategy based on profits generated by the men's national team, which schedules friendly match tours in the United States, and has generated so much investment that the federation can support the entire youth structure. That's how Mexico has been able to win several FIFA youth tournament championships, including a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Sadly, that hasn't been the case for the Women's National Team. There is no proper infrastructure in Mexico to professionally train any female players. In fact, several of them, dual citizens, even aspired to play alongside their American counterparts Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux. But their skill level has only allowed to play for the lesser regarded Mexican team, who lost 5-1 against the U.S. in a World Cup warm-up match.
Hardly any of the Mexican players ply their trade in Mexico, mainly because of a lack of development of the sport in colleges and semi-professional leagues and the lack of coverage of women's matches on television. Cuéllar and his staff have been forced to scout in one of the territories that breeds the most quality female players: the United States
It's something of an accomplishment that the most distinguished female player in Mexican history is still Maribel Domínguez, originally from Chalco. And yet, due to a lack of quality training facilities in Mexico, Dominguez — who has played in two World Cups, the Olympics and the Pan American Games for Mexico — had to move to the U.S. in 2002 to play for the Kansas City Mystics.
So the problem is not that Mexico isn't willing to have a better women's team, it's that there is no infrastructure for real improvement. The players are there. But there's hardly any way for these players to reach their maximum potential. Only with real improvement can Mexico ever be expected to challenge the U.S.
In May, Mexico introduced the National Women's League, an unprecedented effort to help build the amateur ranks. The league will include U-13 and U-16 categories so that girls can begin playing in competitive matches as kids. The tournament will start in September and it will include 4,500 players in 10 different cities.
While introducing the league, Lucía Mijares, Mexican Amateur Sports Competitions manager, said the main objectives were to encourage participation, develop a formative structure and break any barriers between women's football and the FMF.
Mijares completely understands that the Women's National Teams can be strengthened by a structure that facilitates the introduction of new competitive players into the federation.
FIFA estimates that around two million women play football in Mexico and yet only 11,000 are affiliated with the FMF. With a long-term plan now in place — one that includes a viable women's league — scouting outside of the country could be a thing of the past. Perhaps soon, Mexico will have a thriving women's football ecosystem.