Mexico capped off their 5th consecutive CONCACAF U17 Tournament win against the USMNT, winning 3-1 in Guatemala this past weekend. The streak started back in 2015 and will continue until the 2025 tournament. Sounds great but as with all things Mexican Soccer, its more complicated once you start digging.
Winning youth tournaments look great for national team programs but they are not the end all be all. Nigeria has won 5 World Cups at the U17 level but has only made the knockout round at a senior World Cup once since 1998. Nothing wrong with winning those tournaments but they should not be the true measure of success. The primary goal of youth national teams are to re-stock the senior team with new blood. To fill in the gaps of players aging out of the national team. Looking at the ’15, ’17, and ’19 U17 cycles through that lense, its clear they have been failures for El Tri.
Looking at Mexico’s 2022 World Cup roster, it was easy to see it was light on youth. Only 70 minutes were played by a U23 player for El Tri. Its a sharp contrast with what the US has been doing with their U17 to senior team pipeline. Just take a look at the players who featured at one of those three U17 CONCACAF Tournaments for either country and made the 2022 World Cup roster.
- Joe Scally
- Gio Reyna
- Jesus Ferreira
- Sergino Dest
- Christian Pulisic
- Weston McKennie
- Josh Sargent
- Timothy Weah
- Tyler Adams
- Luca de la Torre
- Haji Wright
That lack of consistent pipeline is exactly what is killing Mexican soccer. It causes LigaMX clubs and by extension, the national team to cling on to older players because there is no one to replace them.
The youth disparity between the 2 CONCACAF powerhouses grows even wider when you take a look at World Cup Qualifying.
WCQ Minutes played by U23 players
All of this is to say that the upcoming generational shift is going to be brutal. It is going to require the FMF and new coaching staff to buy into the idea of development over results. The next meaningful game Mexico wont be until the 2023-24 Nations League and even that competition is only meaningful because it can qualify Mexico for the 2024 Copa America. The current Nations League and 2023 Gold Cup do not mean anything in the grand scheme of things. They should be used to find the base of the team that will (hopefully) compete at the 2024 Copa America. If Mexico keep prioritizing results over player development, the number of lost generations will continue and they will be left behind. If you thought the Group Stage exit in Qatar was painful, imagine what it could feel on home soil in 2026…