MEXICO CITY -- Who would have predicted back in 2009 that the upcoming decade would see Tigres as the dominant club, or that a French striker would become the face of the league?
Not many. It's notoriously difficult to predict what will happen in the future, especially given Liga MX's split-season calendar and playoff system, but that doesn't mean that trends and tendencies can't give pointers towards the future.
So what does the next decade hold for Liga MX? Here's 10 predictions for the next 10 years in Mexico's top flight:
1. Club America will extend their title lead over Chivas
Club America won three titles this past decade compared to Chivas' one. That took the total tally for Las Aguilas to 13, with Chivas one behind them on 12. In fact, since 1970, America has 12 to Chivas' four and that trend of America overtaking Guadalajara looks set to continue for at least the next decade.
Sure, Chivas have invested heavily ahead of the 2020 Clausura, but the spending has been sporadic this decade and the constant changes within the club make consistent success difficult to achieve, especially playing with the limitation of only being able to sign Mexican nationals.
Club America, on the other hand, has reorganized and modernized this past decade and is better positioned for consistent success. America has produced players for export (Raul Jimenez, Diego Reyes, Diego Lainez); signed players to sell on (Agustin Marchesin, Mateus Uribe), retained star appeal (Guillermo Ochoa, Giovani dos Santos) and most importantly has remained successful while doing it.
2. Tigres won't be as dominant
The money from Tigres owners CEMEX is unlikely to dry up anytime soon, but change is on the horizon and the team of the past decade will need to plan carefully to continue to be as successful.
First, the squad is aging: the average age of the starting XI in the last match of the year against America was 30.9 years. Within the next couple of years, Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti is likely to retire from coaching, while striker Andre-Pierre Gignac will hang up his boots. Replacing the club's most successful coach and arguably its best-ever player is a monumental task and one that is likely to weaken Tigres.
3. Monterrey will win more championships than anyone else
Over at Rayados, the Liga MX Apertura title is in the bag. But regardless of what could've happened in Estadio Azteca last Sunday, the club is well set for success moving forward. The institution remains both serious and wealthy.
Sporting director Duilio Davino is young, Antonio Mohamed is a good fit as head coach over the long term, there's money to spend, no need to sell players and a youth system that has produced a couple of gems in Carlos Rodriguez and Jesus "Tecatito" Corona.
All that sees Monterrey well positioned to push for more titles this decade.
4. A significant increase in players exported
Mexican soccer has existed in a kind of bubble for many years, setting its own market and even transfer rules (through the Pacto de Caballeros). That has been changing gradually with freedom of contract now in place for players.
The result will be a comparative drop in transfer fees and possibly wages in Liga MX. Over the long term, that should lead to more exports and Liga MX clubs becoming ever-more connected to the global marketplace, with club's also exploring new markets for bringing in players.
5. A collective TV rights deal will get done
This is possibly the most important point on the list. Liga MX is the most-watched league in the United States, ahead of the Premier League, but until the clubs come together and sell the rights as a package instead of as individuals, it's hard to recoup what should be a significant earner in the coming years.
Issues such as three clubs being owned by media companies make it complicated, but there's a wave of feeling in Liga MX that a deal can be struck, with the possibility of one or more TV companies sharing the rights, or the package being divided up.
6. MLS-Liga MX inter-league play will become a reality
The relationship between Liga MX and MLS is deepening and it's unlikely that will change going forward. The Leagues Cup is set to expand and, from there, one of the plans being floated is for some kind of inter-league play with real points at stake, like in Major League Baseball.
7. Cruz Azul, Atlas will both finally end their title droughts
This could be the most controversial point on this list! Cruz Azul AND Atlas to win titles?
Let's start with Cruz Azul. Yes, the club appears to be a mess from the outside, but the drought stretching back to 1997 can't last forever. And five consecutive final losses is a ridiculous number. The law of averages says that La Maquina will break their hoodoo at some point, as long money continues to be invested into the playing squad and coaches.
For Atlas fans, the fact Orlegi Sports is now in charge should mean that within five years the club is a well-run institution that can compete for playoff spots. A Liga MX title is a big ask for a club that has gone 95 tournaments without one, but if Atlas is run like Orlegi-owned Santos Laguna is managed, Los Rojinegros have a good chance.
8. The concept of a "Big Four" will continue to lose weight
Club America and Chivas are indisputably the big two in Mexican soccer, but Cruz Azul's lack of success and Pumas' financial frailty will likely see each of the Mexico City clubs' status as "grandes" be increasingly questioned in comparison to northern powerhouses Tigres and Monterrey.
9. Increased foreign investment
As foreign ownership of clubs in Europe continues to sweep the continent, it's likely that Atletico San Luis won't be the only foreign-owned Liga MX club by the end of the decade. Mexico's first division has a sizable domestic market, a natural secondary market in the United States and appears to want to globalize moving forward.
Due to all these factors, foreign investment seems increasingly inevitable.
10. Limitations on foreign-players will be abolished
The rules surrounding homegrown and foreign players in Liga MX are complicated and work against the growth of the league as a competitive force globally. The reduction of foreign players in the first few years of the next decade should aid the Mexican national team, but Liga MX and its owners at some point will have to be bullish about putting its product first.