Big Liga MX changes coming, Diego Lainez makes Tigres debut

We’re now a month into Liga MX’s 2023 Clausura season and Week 5 in Mexico’s top flight had a lot to offer: a long-awaited Tigres debut for Mexico international Diego Lainez, some clubs who made early bids as title contenders, proposed changes to the league structure from Liga MX President Mikel Arriola and more.

There’s a lot to cover from the last jornada (game week), so in case you missed something, here are three talking points and a few additional observations to bring you up to speed.

– Liga MX Rankings | Liga MX coverage on ESPN Deportes
– Futbol Americas on ESPN+: Liga MX, MLS, USMNT, El Tri

Liga MX President Proposes Sweeping Structural Changes, But What’s Next?

With his usual graphics and detailed stats shown on a presentation behind him, Liga MX President Mikel Arriola recently unveiled a number of proposed changes, big and small, that he wants to make within the league.

During a more than 90-minute press conference last week with the President of the Mexican Football Federation (FMF), Yon de Luisa – in response to a lackluster 2022 for both the men’s and women’s national teams – the two executives laid a new game plan that could change the way this pro performs fútbol in is performed in Mexico.

At the Liga MX level, proposals included:

  • A return to eight playoff spots instead of 12.

  • Reduction of the number of foreign players per squad from eight to seven.

  • A push to bring back the rise and fall.

  • Ending the practice of individual entities owning more than one club.

  • Creating a new trophy for the team with the highest total points over a full year.

  • Facilitate more transfers abroad for players.

However, an important caveat to stress at this stage is that the clubs themselves have yet to approve the changes. Although Arriola has indicated there is a “great openness” with team owners who will vote on the game plan in May, nothing is official until then.

It’s also important to note that even if these changes are approved in May, it may take an indefinite amount of time before the changes begin to be implemented. Example of promotion and relegation: At the press conference, Arriola stated that only Leones Negros from the second division Liga de Expansion was eligible for promotion. In the past, league officials have stated that at least four teams from the second tier would need to be considered eligible to return, raising doubts as to how quickly changes could really materialize.

As for individual entities selling their additional teams, Arriola did not provide a timetable, later saying that “it will be an organized process and that it will no doubt begin as a process that maximizes the value of the teams.” But these team owners Getting them to sell and making sure they are no longer involved with other teams is easier said than done.

Along with decreasing playoff teams, slightly changed rosters, more weight for the year’s results, and a few other minor suggestions, the list of changes for Liga MX is small steps in the right direction for Liga MX’s future, but the big question remains when – or if – we will see these new guidelines become official.

Diego Lainez impresses on return to Mexico

After weeks of transfer speculation and questions about his future, 22-year-old Mexican winger Diego Lainez finally stepped onto the pitch in 2023.

Lainez, on loan from LaLiga Real Betis to Tigres UANL in Liga MX, was eager to impress when he came on as a 54th-minute substitute in Saturday’s 1-0 away win over Cruz Azul. Fast, accurate in his passes and effective in his tackles, the youthful player showed little fear as the ball landed at his feet.

Notably, Lainez slalomed past a Cruz Azul defender in his most exciting run of the second half, slipping past another with a false shot before being thwarted by a great save from veteran goaltender Jesus “Chuy” Corona.

That unique moment was the perfect embodiment of what the winger can still achieve. Many have questioned Lainez’s decision to return to Mexico, raising concerns that he won’t be able to start at either Real Betis in Spain or Braga in Portugal, but there are very few in Mexico with his equal balance or dribbling level.

If he can clock up regular minutes with Tigres and consistently demonstrate his quality, there’s no reason why he can’t return to talks with Mexico’s senior side after being left out of the 2022 World Cup squad. In a new cycle ahead of 2026, a reinvigorated Lainez could be just what he is El Tri Needs in a time that needs a generational change.

An eventual return to Europe shouldn’t be ruled out either, but first he needs consistent minutes with Tigres and to find the back of the net after those clever dribbles.

Pachuca, Tigres and Monterrey are emerging as early favorites for the title

With five games apiece played by all but four Liga MX clubs, the league table is finally taking shape with some early trends. Of the 18 clubs, only three have scored 11 or more points: first-placed Pachuca (12), second-placed Monterrey (12) and third-placed Tigres (11).

Despite being the reigning champion, Pachuca has defied all odds by doing so well without Nicolas Ibañez, the club’s top scorer from last season, who now plays at Tigres. They have since been worn by Mexico midfielder Javier “Chofis” Lopez, who scored his fourth goal of the season in a 1-0 away win against Leon at the weekend. Given that Los Tuzos LAFC’s recently signed MLS Cup winner and Colombian forward Cristian “Chicho” Arango could also soon put another Liga MX title within reach.

Over in Monterrey, Los Rayados became the first team this season to record four consecutive wins after beating Toluca 2-1 on Sunday. While strikers such as Rogelio Funes Mori and German Berterame earned early praise for their goals, midfielder Alfonso ‘Ponchito’ Gonzalez stole the show with a brace at the weekend on his 200th game for the club. Their extensive squad, all led by veteran coach Victor Vucetich, has worked wonders so far.

There is immense firepower for Tigres with French star Andre-Pierre Gignac, Ibañez, Lainez and many others making an impression in the last third – but veteran goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman should also be given credit. He’s not as busy at the net as other goalkeepers at the start of the year, but the Argentine earned his third shutout of the season in a narrow win over Cruz Azul. Tigres becomes even more dangerous in the attack that gives Ibañez and Lainez some time to reconcile with others.

Additional Observations

– Elsewhere in Week 5: Atletico San Luis secured their first home win by beating Puebla 2-0, Necaxa recovered from an early deficit to draw 1-1 at Club Tijuana, Juarez FC scored three goals in one 3-2 win over Mazatlan, Santos Laguna gave up a two-goal advantage in a 2-2 home draw against Club America, Atlas’ Julian Quiñones scored in the 87th minute in a 2-2 away draw against Pumas equalizer and Chivas equalized in the 92nd minute through Alejandro Mayorga in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Queretaro.

— In case you missed it, ESPN’s exclusive interview with 21-year-old Pachuca full-back Mauricio Isais is for fans of Liga MX or El Tri. The Mexican-American League MX Champion spoke about his European ambitions, the future of the national team and other topics.

– Another bites the dust. Six days after the sacking of Mazatlan coach Gabriel Caballero, Club Tijuana coach Ricardo Valiño was also sacked last Saturday. The frontier town team has not had a win since August.

– Finally, we turn to Lucas Gonzalez, Santos Laguna midfielder. Just 19 minutes after making his Liga MX debut, the 22-year-old Argentine also earned his first consecutive red card in the league. Not exactly the best first impression, and The face palm emoji from the club’s official account said it all. Big Liga MX changes coming, Diego Lainez makes Tigres debut

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