Where Does Mexico Go From Here?

In my last blog post, I focused on how things are never as good or bad as many fans think they are for El Tri. While I still subscribe to that thinking, the future is very cloudy for the National team. Unless the FMF start planning with an eye towards 2026, Mexico will be embarrassed on home soil. Not sure players want 90k at the Azteca booing them. How can the FMF avoid that? I have some ideas ….

Mexico had one of the older rosters in Qatar and Tata relied heavily on those veterans. Those same veterans will not make it to 2026. Unless you really think HH should be roaming the middle as a 36 year old at the next World Cup.

Compared to the USMNT:

  • Mexico has ONE U23 player on the roster vs 9 for the US
  • Mexico has 10 players over 30 years old vs 3 for the US
  • Average age of Mexico’s starters during the World Cup hovered near 30 vs 25 for the US

El Tri need to get younger ASAP. To do that, the FMF have to make it clear to the next coach they won’t be judged on immediate results like the Gold Cup next summer. One of the problems that comes from the federation/fans expecting to win every Gold Cup is managers feel that overwhelming pressure. It’s that pressure that leads them to call in the “reliable” veterans instead of experimenting with younger, untested players. If I want to keep my job and don’t need to focus on the future, why wouldn’t I keep calling in Henry Martin instead of trying to incorporate Santiago Gimenez? The Federation need to be on the same page as the next manager about expectations. This also trickles down to the youth levels. Priority should be placed on development and not wins. No need to “finish a proceso” with a 17-year-old if the U20 coach thinks he can play up a level. We should be challenging them instead of being content to let them dominate at their age level. Also, more candidates would be willing to take on a true project because as is, being the Mexico manager has to be one of the least appealing jobs in soccer. The expectations always seem inflated and the pressure is immense for a side that hasn’t sniffed a quarterfinal in almost 40 years. Finding the right candidate is going to take some time, there’s a decent chance an interim manager will oversee the Nations League games in March.

Mexico’s 2022 World Cup Roster

Mexico should follow the blueprint US Soccer laid out after failing to qualify for Russia 2018 and jettison anyone in the player pool who was not going to make it to Qatar. By my estimation, no one above Jesus Gallardo (on the above list) can be expected to be big contributors in 2026. I’ll give Guillermo Ochoa an outside shot just because keepers tend to play well into their late 30s. I mean, if Conejo Perez can win a LigaMX title at 43 years old, maybe Memo can play a World Cup at 41. There is nothing to be gained by having Hector Moreno or Raul Jimenez start next summer at the Gold Cup. If you want to keep 2-3 of those older players through 2023 as you transition, that’s fine but those players need to understand the focus will be on the new generation. We don’t need Hector Herrera causing a scene because the manager decided to play Erick Sanchez against El Salvador.

During the 2022 cycle: Mexico played 1 away friendly against a top 20 FIFA ranked team (Wales) and lost.

You might think: “What’s the rush? The next World Cup is 3.5yrs away.” Well, the lead up to this World Cup will be unique for El Tri. As a host nation, they won’t have to qualify for the World Cup. This means all those World Cup Qualifying battles are on hold until the 2030 cycle. Those tough 14 games against the best in your region? Poof! Gone. How will Mexico fill the void and fulfill their SUM contract? They should use some of that SUM money to draw high quality UEFA/CONMEBOL opponents to the US and have them host Mexico another time during the 2026 cycle. Similar to how college football programs schedule their out of conference games year after year. Many World Cup teams like to visit the host country in the years leading up to the tournament to scout a home base or get a lay of the land, Mexico should take advantage of this. Because if we are going to keep playing friendlies in the US, lets play England on the east coast instead of Nigeria’s C team in California. During the 2022 cycle: Mexico played 1 away friendly against a top 20 FIFA ranked team (Wales-L), 0 at home and played Ecuador 3 times. No shade to Ecuador but they have barely cracked FIFA’s top 50 and Mexico played them all 3 times in the US. The epitome of a Molero game. The FMF has to do a better job scheduling during the 2026 cycle. They will not have the benefit of 6 games against other World Cup quality teams like they did this past cycle. Hard to prepare for a World Cup by not playing any World Cup quality opponents in the preceding years.

Bronze Medal Winners in Tokyo

In addition to no Qualifying matches, Mexico will not be at the U20 World Cup in 2023 or the 2024 Olympics. This is a result of them losing to Guatemala in the quarterfinals at the U20 CONCACAF Tournament earlier this year. Still not sure why CONCACAF decided to have teams qualify over two years before the Olympics but it is what it is. Those tournaments are also perfect chances to impress in front of scouts. Much easier to get European scouts to a U20 World Cup than a Nations League game versus Suriname.

In the past few cycles, many players have used the Olympics as springboard into the full senior national team. Almost like a “finishing school.” This includes the seven players who made it to Qatar after winning a Bronze in Tokyo. I know some fans don’t place a lot of importance in youth tournaments but those are great high-pressure situations to see what your players are made of. You cannot tell me a player is not better prepared for the senior team by playing well at those tournaments.

Blaming Tata for how Mexico played at the World Cup is fair but he isn’t the only one to blame. He’s been here for less than 4 years. The FMF are the ones who can make a bigger impact to the program than a manager. No matter who the FMF hire to coach the team next, they need to loosen the shackles and understand that the goal for El Tri is a deep run at the 2026 World Cup. Who gives a shit about the 2023 Gold Cup? I would rather Mexico send a U23 squad and struggle than send the oldest squad in the region and walk away with another trophy. I’m usually an optimistic guy but Mexico is on the cusp of some dark days if they don’t take a hard look at the entire program. Things can’t continue as usual if they are serious about making some noise in 2026.