Brent Latham: Liga MX needs to take a break during international dates

Liga MX playing playoff matches through the international break hinders both the clubs and El Tri.
A number of important Liga MX players are set to miss the first date of this week’s Liguilla due to conflicts with the FIFA match date scheduled for Wednesday.

It’s a strange thing that Liga MX - an important league regionally and internationally with players from around the Americas - still doesn’t shut down for international dates.

The away matches of the recently scheduled Liguilla will be played on Wednesday and Thursday, meaning that a number of players with international calls set for this week won’t be available to their Mexican clubs.

Humberto Suazo, Aquivaldo Mosquera, Luis Perea, Aldo Leao, Pablo Aguilar and Edgar Benitez will all miss midweek matches to be with their national teams in South America.

Aguilar of Club Tijuana and Benitez of Toluca will be in Paraguay for a friendly against Guatemala, while the three Colombians, Mosquera, Leao and Perea will miss matches with America, Cruz Azul and Morelia, respectively, as the Cafeteros face off with Brazil in New York.

While international matches take place around the world, Liga MX quarterfinals will go on as if in a vacuum. But who does this policy, increasingly rare in leagues of any import around the world, benefit?

It’s hard to think of an answer. Bigger clubs are obviously the ones that more typically will lose players to international call-ups at inopportune times - America, Monterrey, Cruz Azul and Morelia are the victims this time. But it would be difficult to put the blame for these ongoing scheduling irregularities on some sort of anti-establishment scheming.

Just last month, when FIFA qualifying dates meant a number of clubs lost Mexican internationals to call-ups, Monterrey and Chivas had to have their matches postponed.

Playing through international match dates not only causes problems for players and clubs, it makes Mexico’s growing league look insular and self-absorbed. Soccer is the most international of sports, and FIFA has gone to great lengths to set up a calendar to avoid these sorts of conflicts.

For that reason, few leagues around the world, and fewer still of any importance on the international soccer landscape, still ignore the FIFA match dates. Even MLS, which for years stubbornly ignored international dates and even played through the World Cup, has seen the light on respecting the international calendar.

When national teams are playing, the entire soccer nation and world stops to watch. The league can wait.

As if that not being the case in Mexico weren’t enough - certainly plenty of fans will turn out to the stadiums on Wednesday in Mexico City and Morelia - the scheduling virtually preempted any chance of the Mexican national team playing a friendly on the final FIFA match date of the year.

Because the majority of El Tri comes from the Liga MX, it would have been terribly problematic to schedule a match this week, even though another high profile international date to close the year would certainly have been in the best interest of the team, the players and the fans.

So playing through the FIFA match date benefits virtually no one, save the teams that happen to come up against short-handed opponents on Wednesday and Thursday.

It would be an easy enough detail to change. Leagues elsewhere make up dates by scheduling a few more matches midweek, or extending the calendar a few days further at the end of the year.

It’s time for Liga MX to do the same. Respecting the international calendar is a befitting action for a league of the prestige and international projection Liga MX aspires to and deserves.


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