Players, directors and coaches from the two Mexican second division teams are expressing their frustration about not being able to be promoted ahead of a two-legged final to determine the winner of the second division.
Cafetaleros de Tapachula capped off their Ascenso Clausura title Sunday with Alebrijes de Oaxaca coming in as the champion of the Apertura. But Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla said after the final that neither team fits the top division's rules and aren't eligible to be promoted.
Lobos BUAP, the most recently promoted team and also the one set to be relegated, can pay a fee to stay in the first division or the league will simply play the next two tournaments with 16 teams rather than 17. That has left both teams from the Ascenso, whose name translates to "ascent" or "promotion", wondering why they should bother to play in Friday's first leg and next Friday's decider.
Cafetaleros changed their marketing material to call the game a "Champion of Champions" match rather than a promotion final, while reports have emerged from Mexico that both teams were considering boycotting the match only to learn of Article 63 in the competition rules which states any team not participating in their playoff matches be sent down to the third division.
It's a particularly frustrating situation for Gabriel Caballero. The Argentine managed Dorados into the final last season but fell short to Lobos BUAP. Now at the helm of Cafetaleros, the 48-year-old said he wondered if he'd get another chance to steer a team to the top division.
"Yes, it makes me sad in a certain way and I keep thinking and hoping that this situation might change," Caballero said Tuesday. "Honestly, I don't know what could happen, but it makes me sad having a chance, knowing how tough it is to get to a final and be able to compete for the chance to get into the first division. I don't know when this could happen again.
"Last year was the last one where promotion was played for and Lobos won. We lost and immediately I have another chance to achieve promotion and this situation comes up."
Liga MX is set to put a multiyear moratorium on promotion and relegation, though Bonilla and other officials have indicated that some teams could still make the jump from first division to second division before the freeze goes into place in 2020.
The league hopes to reach 20 teams by that time and reportedly will extend the same amnesty offer of paying a fee to stay in the top division rather than being relegated to the team that falls short in 2019 as well.