Posted by : Stephen Eastepp July 30, 2012
|Cruz Azul midfielder Christian "El Chaco" Jiminez left a Copa MX game injured last week.|
The tournament dates back to 1907, with the trophy being donated by an English ambassador to Mexico named Reginald Tower, so it was originally named in honor of him. The Copa Tower was the first of many names for the Mexican competition. Current Liga MX club Pachuca were the first to be crowned champions of Mexico in the inaugural tournament. The Copa Tower was played from 1907-1919, with a former Mexico City club Real España having the most success during this period, winning four titles.
In 1919, after winning the tournament for the third straight year, Real España were allowed to keep the Copa Tower trophy permanently. While Real España were one of the most dominate teams in Mexican history during the amateur period, the team faded away in 1950 and no longer competes in Mexican soccer.
After the 1919 cup, the tournament was renamed Copa Eliminatoria, given a new trophy, and eventually would become known as Copa Mexico. The cup was designed to determine more than a league champion, rather a champion of Mexico. With a different name than the league competition and a different format, the Copa Mexico had it's own identity.
In the Amateur Era, which lasted from 1907-1943, Asturias F.C. was the most successful club amassing 8 championships, followed by Real España with 4. Asturias, like Real Espanña no longer competes in Mexican soccer, not only holds the record for most Copa Mexico wins, but is also in the history books as Mexico's first league champion in the Professional Era in 1943-1944.
While legendary Mexican clubs Asturias F.C. and Real España may no longer exist, the Professional Era (1943-1997) has seen a handful of teams find success at winning the Mexico crown.
Club Leon, which recently was promoted back to the first division after ten years, shares the record of most Copa Mexico wins with Club America. Both teams have 5 titles, with Leon finishing runner up 4 additional times and America 3.
Prior to 1950, the Copa Mexico was a competition for first division teams. In 1950, it was expanded to include second division clubs to increase the competition and truly market it as a cup for a Mexican champion.
After a number of name changes and format revisions with unsuccessful results, the Mexican soccer federation suspended play of the Copa Mexico following the 1996-1997 tournament. In August of 1996, current Liga MX club Cruz Azul beat Toros Neza 2-0 in the final, including a goal by Mexican legend Carlos Hermosillo. Cruz Azul was led by current Monterrey coach Victor Manuel Vucetich, who also led Tigres to the Copa Mexico title the previous year.
In the first installment of the competition, 14 clubs from Liga MX and 14 clubs from Ascenso MX will be split into 7 groups with the top team going through to the next phase, plus the best runner up. While clubs will play at each other's home one game, the winner on aggregate goals for each "round" will be awarded an extra point in the table, differentiating it from traditional competitions.
Liga MX clubs competing in the CONCACAF Champions League will not be eligible for Copa MX to avoid overcrowding a club's schedule.
While the Copa MX history is rich in Mexican culture and plenty of fans have yearned for it's return, it's unclear if the newly revamped tournament has lasting power. The biggest concerns remain around why there are two tournaments per year and the prize for the winner. While the United States hosts the US Open Cup, which is similar, the winner of that cup gets a birth in the prestigious CONCACAF Champions League. In the Copa MX, the winner will get a trophy.
How the first division clubs handle the tournament is also a concern. Through the first week of competition, the Ascenso MX teams seem more interested and have fielded the better clubs so far. Liga MX teams do not seem committed to putting their best club on the pitch for a number of reasons, but a positive is clubs will be fielding their younger players, giving fans an opportunity at a glimpse of the team's future.
I am enjoying the rebirth of the Copa MX and looking forward to its contribution to the growth of Mexican soccer. It's possible the tournament will struggle with viewership, attendance, and overall interest in the next year. It's possible there will be rumblings whether it will make it through the second run later this year (Clausura).
However, it is also possible the Copa MX will capture not only Mexican fans, but United States fans as well. If one of the "big" clubs like Club America, Cruz Azul, or Pumas do well, attention to the tournament could grow sustantially. If Leon continues it's good play in Liga MX and dominates Copa MX, the country would take notice. If an Ascenso MX team like Dorados, which is led by former Mexican National Team midfielder Cuahtemoc Blanco, upsets Liga MX teams surely soccer fans would appreciate the success of the underdog.
While the tournament may have died before, and could possibly share the same fate, there is no reason not to embrace the return of the Copa MX now.
Here is a recap of last week's results and this week's fixtures (via Medio Tiempo).
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