Friday 22 September 2023, 14:00

Setting the pace in the Liga MX Femenil

  • The last six years in Liga MX Femenil have seen some notable achievements

  • A return to the FIFA Women's World Cup is a priority

  • Carlos Valenzuela, Club Tigres: "We try to develop players 24/7"

In Mexico, a song that has become a popular anthem is a constant reminder of the importance of patience: "You don't have to get there first, but you have to know how to get there". In tune with the verses of the composer José Alfredo Jimenez, the 'Liga MX Femenil', barely six years after its foundation, is still taking ‘baby’ steps in comparison to some other leagues that are further along their evolutionary path. However, those footsteps, without a doubt, are headed in the right direction. "I think the value of the league and why it has been able to go from strength to strength is because all of the clubs, and especially the Liga MX leadership has been able to go step by step," comments Mexican Carlos Valenzuela, Vice President of Operations and Marketing at Club Tigres, shortly after participating in a panel discussion on the professionalisation of women's football at the FIFA Women's Football Convention in Sydney.

Sarah Gregorius and Carlos Valenzuela

The panel discussion addressed issues that aim to help empower and further develop women's football. These included how to accelerate its growth and reach new heights in line with FIFA's Women's Football Strategy. In addition, how to help leagues and clubs to professionalise through practical solutions and have more robust regulatory frameworks and innovative development programmes. Valenzuela is a first-hand witness to the growth of women's football in Mexico, believing that a pivotal point in its beginnings, was the repatriation of Mexican talent. "We started with no international spots on each team. Therefore, the Mexican players that were abroad – because until then there was no league in our country - started to return home to play. "Many were already experienced players, but they had never had the opportunity to play in a domestic league. It was important to have home-grown players and youth talent" he continued.

Players of Tigres celebrate after winning the Campeon de Campeones match between Tigres UANL and America as part of the Liga MX Femenil at Universitario Stadium on July 10, 2023 in Monterrey, Mexico

Once this was achieved, the doors were gradually opened to the entire world to strengthen local talent. "We knew it could be one of our main pillars to have youth talent for the fan base to engage with them. After only having local players, the 18-team league then decided it was time to have two international spots per club. That was a game-changer for everyone" At this point, a real revolution started. Clubs had to invest more and improve their infrastructure and international scouting department. As an obvious consequence of this, the level of the league rose and became more professional. The repercussions also went beyond the field of play. "In terms of marketing, we started getting more eyeballs. Two years and a half later, we now have four international spots per club. Every team, I believe, utilises those spots to be more competitive on the field."

Moderator Samantha Johnson with Panellists Sarah Gregorius, Carlos Valenzuela, Jessica Berman

However, despite all this, Mexico was absent from the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™. "It's true that we didn't qualify. And that's just sad. Because we have such an amazing generation and such major talent. But, again, it's a game. It's football. So, you don't get to win everything. And the other teams really, really did an amazing job." Despite the setback, the focus on evolving the league and its clubs has not been lost. "We need to keep investing more in home-grown players, youth development and youth academies, to have better players and to be well prepared for the next World Cup. We have such a good infrastructure, but we need to win games to be represented at a World Cup." And in the medium term? "We need more infrastructure and better facilities for our youth academies to develop the game and grow. We have a big responsibility to invest off the field to help them (the players) develop at their school and with their families too. This is vital, as we try to develop the players 24-7."

The FIFA Women's Football Convention took place in Sydney between 18-19 August. You can now find all keynote speeches and panel discussions available here.