Home » Mexico has its sights set on being ‘a world contender’ after upsetting USWNT in Gold Cup

Mexico has its sights set on being ‘a world contender’ after upsetting USWNT in Gold Cup

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Mexico has its sights set on being ‘a world contender’ after upsetting USWNT in Gold Cup

After failing to qualify for last year’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics, women’s soccer in Mexico was in disarray.

Changes were made, and the results have followed.

Mexico stunned the United States 2-0 in the Gold Cup and the team seems to be on the right track in their desire to be a world contender.

It was only their second win in 42 matches against the four-time world champions.

Mexico’s main sports newspapers dedicated widespread coverage to the team, while ESPN Mexico devoted an entire show to discuss Monday’s group-stage victory.

Back in July 2022, it was the opposite. The team fell short for Olympic qualification after failing to land a World Cup spot.

The Mexican soccer federation fired coach Monica Vergara and director of national teams Gerardo Torrado.

Spaniard Pedro Lopez was appointed a couple of months later as the new coach after leading Spain to the U-20 women’s World Cup title.

“We have the means, the resources, the facilities and the talent to put the team where it belongs,” Lopez had said in his first press conference. “Mexico does not want to be just a regular team. We have the potential to be a world contender.”

Lopez had a point.

Mexico started a women’s professional league in 2016 and every year it’s been growing and gathering interest from fans and big sponsors like Nike.

“Not only CONCACAF, but the whole world is continuing to raise its level,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said after losing to the Mexicans. “It’s helping with all the leagues around the world and Mexico is definitely a product of that with their league.”

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[Related: USWNT fought to elevate soccer worldwide, now the competition is much tougher]

For the Apertura 2022 final between America and Tigres, 52,654 fans attended to set a new league record and it became the sixth largest attendance for a women’s soccer match in history. Barcelona against Wolfsburg tops the list with 91,648 — a record set in the Women’s Champions League semifinal in 2022.

“The league’s growth has been huge in just six years, we are one of the top eight leagues in the world as far as salaries and infrastructure,” league president Mariana Gutiérrez said. “We are not where we want to be yet, but we are doing good.”

Lopez took advantage of the Liga MX Femenil to build a competitive roster and the team showed progress last year — winning the gold medal at Central American and Caribbean Games in San Salvador and then at the Pan American Games in Santiago.

“This is something that we have been working on, we’ve been a year and half with Pedro Lopez and you can see the difference with the team,” said Maria Sanchez, a midfielder who plays for the Houston Dash in the NWSL. “The change with Pedro is evident. We celebrate the win, but we want this to be for the long run.”

For the Gold Cup, Lopez also made some bold moves cutting regular players like Kenti Robles, Alicia Cervantes and Katty Martinez and instead going with more inexperienced ones like Ovalle or Mayra Pelayo, who scored against the U.S.

He also brought back veteran Charlyn Corral, a former scoring champion in Spain who has provided leadership in the locker room.

“It was a hard decision, but in the end, we made a decision based on our rival and what we think and the pieces that we choose fit in what we think we are gong to face,” Lopez said.

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Mexico finished atop Group A in the Gold Cup while the United States finished second. Both teams advanced to the knockout round.

Mexico now waits to learn its next opponent.

Even though Lopez has been living in the country for less than two years, he is aware that the victory over the U.S. would mean less if the team gets eliminated in its next game.

“Mexico is a country of great emotions, and I don’t want this to be something sporadic, I want Mexico to be a reality and to be respected worldwide in women’s soccer,” Lopez said. “So far we have made some new fans in Mexico, and that’s pretty good for women’s soccer.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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