Mexico’s Decision to Halt Player Subsidies Is Bad News For Female Soccer Players

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According to The Equalizer, the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol (FMF) will no longer allocate Mexican national team players to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Why? Well, check this stat:

In 2015, not a single player in the Selección femenina played in the NWSL.

That’s a grand total of ZERO minutes for Mexican internationals playing in the U.S. last season. Surprised? Not really, to be honest. Much of this has to do with the fact that Mexico brought its full squad to the Women’s World Cup and Pan Am Games, but still. There were only four players on FMF payroll in 2015 – Monica Ocampos, Verónica Pérez, Arianna Romero, and Bianca Sierra – half of the eight subsidized in 2014 and a quarter of the 16 allocations included in the 2013 plan (in years past, U.S. Soccer, Canada Soccer, and the Mexican federation have paid salaries for select national team players in order for clubs to focus budgets elsewhere – on players who might not have the name recognition of a Carli Lloyd, for example).

Monica Ocampo
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With dwindling defense from a federation that has already distinguished itself in its ability to show as little support as humanly possible for women’s soccer, a question arises: where will Mexico’s top talent play?

This new development doesn’t rule out Mexican participation in the NWSL, but it does make it contingent on these players actually making rosters (which, given the way things have been going, doesn’t seem too likely). Back in September, Mexico coach Leonardo Cuéllar said that NWSL clubs were “not at fault” for a lack of interest in Mexican players; “I think we need to challenge our players to be on the [NWSL] level,” he stated, a desire that has proven to be difficult given the fact that irregular training and very few players earning significant minutes with their clubs means that the team essentially “starts from zero” all the time.

Leonardo Cuéllar
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With Olympic qualifying in sight, Cuéllar sees this forced inactivity as a “big disadvantage.” So if not in the U.S. (at least for the time being), then where? Perhaps a push towards following in the footsteps of Kenti Robles and Charlyn Corral in Spain? Or maybe a jump with Verónica Pérez, who recently signed for KIF Örebro in the powerful Swedish league? Regardless, one thing is for certain: it seems like Europe might just be the best bet for Mexican players – at least until Mexico and other teams from the region have the resources and wherewithal to develop successful youth systems at home and attract better competition at the senior level.

But here’s my dream: a women’s professional league somewhere in Central/South America à la Liga MX. Exciting, emotional, entertaining. Personally, I’m desperately hoping that this lack of federational funding does not equal a step back for Mexican women’s soccer, because that would be frustrating as hell. Although you might lose some funds in the process of growing the women’s game, the potential payoff could be tremendous in the long run. Fútbol success and maybe even cultural shifts. Who knows. Also, I’m just gonna go ahead and put it out there – the FMF has gone through some outrageous number of head coaches in the past decade with the men’s national team. Surely it has the money to actually start giving a shit about its female futbolistas?

At the very least, there are talks of a Liga de Fútbol Femenil for U-13 and U-16 youth categories set to start in September of 2016. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.