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Liga MX's new rules limiting foreign players is a big mistake

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Sad Rafa is the best Rafa, but the Liga MX rules really are something to be upset about.
Sad Rafa is the best Rafa, but the Liga MX rules really are something to be upset about.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Liga MX has recently announced a new rule that is supposed to encourage teams to play more Mexican players. Known as the 8/10 rule, the rule requires each team to name at least 8 players born in Mexico to the starting XI and bench for every game and correspondingly limits 10 foreign born players to each match.

Previously, Liga MX limited the number of non-Mexican players to 5 per team. However, there were concerns after a number of players came in from abroad and received Mexican citizenship — individuals from Spain, Portugal, or Latin America can receive Mexican citizenship in just two years — allowing teams to sign more non-Mexican players.

The new rule, which comes into place at the start of the Apertura season this month (Liga MX follows a split season with a spring/fall format) allows teams to sign as many foreign players, but requires that they play a number of Mexican players.

If you notice, the rule doesn't say that teams need to field 8 Mexicans, it says that teams need to field 8 players born in Mexico. That doesn't include Mexican-Americans born in the United States. There is a workaround. If a player is registered to the FMF (the Mexican Football Association) before they turn 19, they qualify under the new rule.

That's fine for players who move to Mexico as children and come up through Mexican club systems. But for American based players, that presents a major problem. FIFA has started cracking down on Mexican clubs trying to poach youth players in the U.S. (it's a violation of FIFA rules for players to move internationally for footballing reasons before they turn 18), which means that players have only a year to find a way into a Mexican club. A year when they are still growing as players and may have the opportunity to attend college. American players currently playing in Liga MX are also in trouble.

There hasn't been an announcement that players with Mexican citizenship currently in the league would be grandfathered in, so the likes of Greg Garza and Omar Gonzalez will be considered foreigners. They will have to compete for those limited spots for playing time like other foreigners. And that's going to discourage players from going south of the border. Players are admitting that, if they were moving now with this rule in place, they'd have second thoughts.

When I came to Mexico it was because I had dual citizenship and could play here as a Mexican. Now, if I were to have the same opportunity six years ago with these new rules in effect, I may have considered other options, like Europe or South America. - Jonathan Bornstein

Mexico's 8/10 rule resembles the one in England. In the Premier League, teams are required to name 8 homegrown players to the team roster of 25 ne(not to be confused with homegrown players in MLS). These players have to have been registered with an English club for 3 years before they turn 21. In theory, this was supposed to encourage clubs to groom English talent and prepare them for the national team.

In practice, it has encouraged teams to stock up on English players with no incentive to play them. Because the FA mandates that teams have these players, clubs are disincentivized to move players. Young players who may receive an opportunity to improve with another team see their moves blocked because the homegrown player rule inflated their value. That same broken incentive system prevents English players from going abroad because, while another English club might be willing to overpay for English talent (because they are being forced to), there is no reason for a foreign club to do so.

Now, technically the Liga MX rule will require at least 1 Mexican born player to start (with 7 on the bench). But beyond that one starting player and the subs, it doesn't have to play them. That's playing time that youth players aren't getting, to the detriment of Mexican football. Rafa Marquez of all people has spoken out about how this rule will hurt young players in Mexico. And he's absolutely right.