Tom Marshall: Liga MX teams focused on US youth

Mexico's top clubs are casting their eyes north of the border in their search for talent.

48 young players spread over the Under-19 and Under-16 age groups will be hoping to catch the eye this weekend in Miami in the Alianza de Futbol organization’s annual national finals.

US Soccer and one MLS club will be present at the showcase trial, but 15 Liga MX scouts will be in the majority, according to the organizers, at the free scouting program focused on unearthing young Latino talent north of the border.

By Sunday, some will be lucky and obtain one of the seven guaranteed professional contracts on offer.

“It’s very important to come to the United States because we know about the talent there is in the youngsters,” Leon scout Ricardo Enriquez told Goal USA over the phone from Miami on Thursday. “We come here with pleasure and with the expectation that we’ll find very talented youngsters.”

Leon already has four US-born players in its youth system and the attraction of the Alianza showcase appears to be two-fold for the Mexican clubs.

Firstly, most the legwork of going up, down and around the extensive landmass of the United States has already been done and – in theory – the best of the over one thousand players that attended the trials – held over 11 cities - are in Miami this weekend.

On top of that, most of the youngsters – from all over the United States – will have access to a Mexican passport and therefore count as a Mexican national should they be chosen to head south and begin a fledgling professional career at a Liga MX club.

Tigres scout Alonso Gonzalez freely admits it is that combination of the Mexican nationality and talent that is enticing for Mexican clubs, with the Monterrey institution particularly interested in players from Texas, with which the state of Nuevo Leon – of which Monterrey is the capital - shares a border.

Explained Gonzalez: “Because of the closeness (Monterrey is only 150 miles from the United States border) it’s promising for us to find boys here and bring them down (to Mexico) because they feel more comfortable, above all from Texas and that area, but we also have kids from California.”

Gonzalez, like Enriquez, is adamant there is plenty of talent in the US for Liga MX clubs to mine, but admits the hardest thing about bringing players to Tigres from the United States has been the adaption process.

“If they adapt, if they are conscious of what they are going for, it’s certain they’ll have a less difficult path, but many times they don’t think they have to change and that is the difference between becoming a great soccer player or getting stuck halfway,” he said.

Also attending the trial and with one eye very firmly on potential Mexican talent in the United States is Salvador Gamero, a scout for the Mexican soccer federation (FMF).

For Gamero, being at Alianza’s showcase is about first detecting and then continuing to watch players that fit the profile the Mexico set-up is looking for.

“For us, it is very important to detect the talent,” he said, also over the phone from Miami. “Once we’ve detected it, we follow it to make sure of the soccer skill the boy has. And from there, in accordance with the reports and our files, we have information to pick the Mexican national teams.”

And the United States as a potential recruiting ground for the Mexican national team is highly important, according to Gamero.

“For us, a player (in the United States with a Mexican background) is as important as a player in Mexico,” stated Gamero. “Any player of Mexican descent can be a part of our national teams, if they show the skill or player profile that we are looking for.”

The Alianza event certainly helps out Gamero in that. The soccer structure in the United States is not as neatly ordered as in Mexico, where Liga MX clubs all have Under-17 and Under-20 categories that play each other the same day as the first team, making it relatively easy for the federation to track players’ development up the pyramid.

In a couple of months time, at least some of the players featuring in the Alianza de Futbol trial this weekend will be leaving home, heading south and integrating themselves into that very system.