Why is Mexico so bad at soccer?

By | November 12, 2013

Mexico is a country of 119 million people, and has the world’s 11th largest economy. It has more people than Germany, the Netherlands, The United Kingdom, France, Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, or Colombia. It is also soccer crazy- no sport even comes to matching the support El Tri gets in Mexico. Why then, did it take a goal by Graham Zusi, a member of the Unites State’s B team, for Mexico to even get a chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup? Essentially, Why is Mexico so bad that it squeaked past the Hex (CONCACAF’s world cup qualifying rounds) only because another team determined it’s fate?


There was once a time when Bruce Arena, the US Men’s national coach, would only host games against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, so that the stadium would not be filled with people waving the Mexican flag, which was a problem in places like Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. Since then, the US team has not only caught up to Mexico, but the Americans are probably now better than Mexico. The reasons for this are many, but there are three groups on whose shoulders blame can be placed-the coaches, the players, and Liga MX, the Mexican league

The Players

The current group of Mexican players, while certainly very technically talented, rate among the worst in terms of discipline and team cohesion. The team has players like Carlos Vela, Chicarito, Giovanni Dos Santos, Rafael Márquez, Guillermo Ochoa, and Héctor Herrera- a very talented group of players who play in some of the top leagues and clubs of the world. Yet, many have been accused of being lazy and having no discipline. This blew up spectacularly in 2010, when after a win against Colombia, Vela and Efrain Juarez held a party. For violating team rules, they were fined and banned, along with some of the other more high profile players on the team. Since then Vela, one of country’s best players has refused to play for El Tri.

Vela Refused to play after the hotel scandal of 2011

A year later in 2011, 8 players (including Jonathan dos Santos, one of the brightest prospects on the team), were banned for bringing prostitutes back to their hotel rooms. While this behavior is unsurprising in sports starts, it has proved to be a bad distraction from football.


The Coaches

Saying the name “Chepo” to a Mexican soccer fan usually results in a flurry of insults and curses. “Chepo” refers to José Manuel de la Torre, a former player who managed Mexico from 2011-2013. By all accounts, Chepo has been the worst coach in the history of the Mexican federation. Chepo was particularly inept with the press, which is dangerous in a football mad country like Mexico. He often stuck his foot in his mouth, once saying that the team was “doing well” after a loss to Honduras.

Chepo was often Confused

But this would have forgiven if the man had produced results. Alas, he did not. Chepo had little time for tactics, and teams often exploited his naivety. For instance, Jamaica was known to use Chepo’s team selections to always attack down the right flank of the team- a flaw that the manager never fixed. He was also terrible at player management- he alienated Vela, rowed with both the dos Santos brothers, and was not on good terms with Rafa Marquez. The man also blamed all defeats on the players, so was not popular in the dressing room. New management (Chepo was fired in 2013) should improve on his performance.

Liga MX

While players and coaching can easily be replaced and improve, an underlying problem is Mexico’s Liga MX. The vast majority of the National team’s players earn their wages here, but the league is corrupt and focused on profit maximization, not player development.

Liag MX has often been accused of being full of players from South America who couldn’t make it to Europe. As a consequence, youth development is ignored, which has resulted in El Tri suffering.  The best players on the current team mostly grew up in Europe or moved there at an early age.  Young players who aren’t stars don’t have much of a chance to shine or grow, as their spots are taken by older, more experienced players.

But an even more serious problem may be El Pacto de Caballeros, or the pact of Gentlemen. This pact is an agreement by the owners of the clubs in Liga MX to essentially protect their own interests with regards to player contracts. If a player runs down his contract, only his original team is allowed to sign him. Thus, Liga MX has no free agency, as players are forced to sign with their original teams. This decrees the flow of players, and also hinders development.


These reasons don’t alone explain why Mexico constantly underperforms. But remedying these glaring issues will undoubtedly result in a better national team.



2 thoughts on “Why is Mexico so bad at soccer?

  1. Jarrett Link

    I would venture to guess that the underlying cause for many of these issues is a lack of adequate funding for the national team. Mexico has traditionally suffered from economic issues, corruption, and money laundering. These issues would likely trickle down and affect the national team, despite the fervor most in Mexico have for soccer. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any hard and fast budget statistics, so this is merely speculation.

  2. Kavin Tamizhmani

    This is an interesting view of our neighbor south of the border. Mexico has had great club level players, but it cannot replicate its success at the national level. Of the reasons outlined above, I think that the lack of an interest in player development has hindered the country. Although players play abroad in European leagues, they do not polish their game such that they can better contribute towards the success of the national team. There is not a great emphasis on youth academies that develop players at the world’s most successful clubs. Talents such as Chicharito or Dos Santos are discovered then they find their way to Europe. These players fail to provide the expected leadership skills and work ethic acquired from playing abroad in the world’s most competitive leagues. Additionally, the players do not seem to be a cohesive unit. They sometimes forget that they play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. Combined with poor coaching and an underwhelming domestic league, Mexico has a lot of work ahead to put forth a team that represents the country well in future tournaments.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *