Tom Marshall: Liga MX, El Tri changes swept under the carpet

Monday's meeting between club owners and the Mexican federation lacked any real recognition of the underlying problems plaguing the national team.
It was almost as if 2013 had not happened.

The home loss to Honduras, the Gold Cup failure, four coaches in a month and the cold, hard and uncomfortable fact for Mexican soccer that it was U.S. perseverance in the dying embers of a largely meaningless game in Panama that brought El Tri back from the brink of World Cup elimination.

Yet at Monday's meeting between the Mexican federation and the Liga MX team owners, you could've been forgiven for thinking the year had gone without a blip.

There were suggestions back in October, when El Tri's crisis was in full swing, that heads at the federation could roll. Promises were made of an investigation and changes.

Perhaps the federation's deal with Soccer United Marketing to play five Mexico games each year in the United States was to be discussed?

That deal, now in its 11th year and clearly bringing in a significant economic gain for the federation, offers the chance for Mexico fans in the United States to see their team, but not much in the way of cutting-edge competition to sharpen El Tri ahead of key qualifying games.

This year Mexico has played Finland, a less-than-motivated Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Peru and an under-strength Denmark in friendlies in the United States, all of which were played in front of a home crowd, on nice pitches, with first-class facilities.

It is a world away from the infernos the "welcome" El Tri when they go to Central American nations.

The U.S. national team, on the other hand, has played in Bosnia, Scotland, Austria and Russia in the past 13 months, as well as at home against Belgium and Germany.

The debate about the number of foreigners in the Liga MX was also shunted aside, as was discussion about whether the national team setup should be reconsidered, with club owners having a large say in the running of El Tri without necessarily having any real soccer expertise aside from having the money to buy a club.

Also missing was the topic of Carlos Vela's rebellion against the national team and the rising discontent that can be plucked from recent statements from Giovani dos Santos. Then there are those that openly oppose the way the federation is run, most notably Hugo Sanchez, but the mild-mannered Victor Manuel Vucetich has also been vocal of late.

The "Gentlemen's Pact" that infamously governs transactions between Mexican clubs was not mentioned, either, nor any details on whether the practice of selling off a promoted club would continue to be allowed, as happened last season with La Piedad.

Instead, Miguel Herrera was ratified as Mexico coach with an "open" contract, with "the plan" being that he guides the team beyond Brazil 2014 and to Russia 2018.

It was hardly a resounding vote of confidence for Herrera and there was no mention of what he would need to achieve at Brazil to keep his job.

Finally, the Atlas situation was discussed at length, with the deal to sell the club to TV Azteca agreed after a split vote among owners.

It has to be remembered that it was only a little more than six months ago that Liga MX president Decio de Maria stated: "During the next five years no owner will be able to increase the number of clubs they have at present."

That is exactly what Morelia owner TV Azteca did, with De Maria defending the league by demanding that Azteca sell one of the teams by 2016 and claiming that these were "special circumstances."

Other potential buyers of Atlas didn't fit the bill and the fact that the Rojinegros are approaching 100 years as an organization and are one of the staples of Mexican soccer meant the Liga MX could make an exception, apparently.

But, quite frankly, if Atlas' 124 owners wouldn't reduce the price of a club devalued due to the threat of relegation, then why should the league make special dispensation? It is not as though Mexico couldn't find another club to step up. The Ascenso MX is brimming with teams desperate for a chance in the top division.

What does the Atlas decision say to other clubs that are in a poor financial state? Will another TV company come in and rescue them to stop ruin?

Those lingering problems in Mexican soccer were not going to be fixed in one meeting. But it would have at least been positive to hear some real recognition of underlying problems from those that govern the sport in Mexico, instead of shoving it all under the carpet.

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