In its second edition since returning from a 15-year hiatus, the Copa MX has seen rejuvenation and increased attention thanks to surprising results from second-division clubs.
The electric match between Club Tijuana and Correcaminos, which ended with a victory for the Ascenso MX side after a 5-5 draw on Wednesday night in Ciudad Victoria, garnered plenty of attention of the best kind for the Copa MX, just when Mexico’s newly resuscitated cup tournament most needed it.
The tournament to date had been sort of passé, after a lukewarm round of group matches that saw most top level clubs using their backups, and falling often, in deference to the ongoing Apertura 2012.
The fact that some of Mexico’s top and most followed teams - Chivas, Monterrey, Tigres and Santos - are busy elsewhere with the CONCACAF Champions League, and another - America - phoned in the inaugural edition of this competition, didn’t help matters either.
But all that has just provided a window of opportunity for Ascenso MX teams. And let’s face it, they needed it.
One of the goals of the Copa MX in the first place was to get some much-needed attention for Mexico’s second flight. It’s worked well in that regard, as the teams from what used to be Primera A have gotten the results, and also proved that they play some attractive soccer worth tuning into.
That’s because -- who knew? -- second division teams in Mexico have some pretty good players and are technically and tactically very sound. They’ve demonstrated every bit of that acumen in the inaugural Copa MX, seizing, incredibly, all four of the semifinal spots.
Who would have predicted a clean sweep in quarterfinals for the little brothers of Liga MX teams? But Necaxa, Toros Neza, Dorados and especially Correcaminos proved they belong in the discussion of the Mexican game with some fearless football, in some cases even taking it to their higher ranking opponents.
San Luis’ season has been a disaster, but it still qualifies as a surprise that Dorados jumped on them so early with three goals from which the top flight team never recovered. Pachuca and Toluca, for their part, both played a significant amount of regulars, clearly going for a semifinal berth but coming up short in penalties.
As if that weren’t enough, the best was saved for last as a Tijuana team hungry for its first-ever silverware in the top flight was bounced in astonishing fashion in Ciudad Victoria by a Correcaminos team that overcame a three goal deficit in the final half hour to eventually win, after seven rounds of penalties.
So a tournament that needed a major shot in the arm got it this week. But in the end, perhaps all that drama shouldn’t have been necessary to turn eyes to the Copa MX.
There’s a trophy at stake here, though not everyone seems to get it. Clearly, many teams used the tournament as a chance to field some younger players. That’s perfectly normal, and good for the Mexican game.
But as the stakes ramp up, perhaps a few changes could be considered to raise the attention level in general. Starting with direct knockout matches from the start wouldn’t be a bad idea, as staging meaningless group games in a tournament that already struggles for relevance might not be the best idea.
Putting something significant on offer, like a place in the CONCACAF Champions League, also wouldn’t be a bad idea. Letting the winners of the two yearly editions of the Copa MX play off for something like an international spot would make sense.
For now though, the four Liga de Ascenso clubs left will have to be happy with the silverware and the newfound attention the Copa has brought to their division. Given the euphoria associated with knocking off a top level club, in at least four cities around the country that will certainly be good enough for now.