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Latina players are choosing Liga MX over the NWSL

With Liga MX Femenil improving every year, and with NWSL still mistreating players, more and more Latina stars are choosing Mexico over their home country.

While a future in the NWSL is not guaranteed for any player, a future in the league for a Latina player is even more difficult to come by. Latinas have been undervalued in the NWSL for years, and now players have realized they do not need to have their fate determined by one league. They now have the option to go to Mexico to compete in the Liga MX Femenil, where the quality of play is rapidly improving and where they know they will be valued. 

While most Latinas have found it difficult to succeed in the NWSL, some have found success and respect. María Sánchez, for example, originally was drafted by the Chicago Red Stars in 2019 but then made the move to Mexico after she received limited minutes, eventually making her way back to the states to play a big role for the Houston Dash. It’s great to see Latina players who are consistent starters in the NWSL, but sadly most don’t have the same opportunity. 

Liga MX is picking up who NWSL is putting down

Even players that make it on an NWSL roster struggle to find playing time. Current players like Sabrina Flores (Gotham FC) and Jimena López (OL Reign) have been given limited roles with their teams when they could easily be starters on a team in Mexico. López also represents the Mexican national team, which means club teams already know the caliber of player she is and would jump at the chance to sign her. Flores and López should follow the path that former NWSL player Karina Rodríguez has taken.

While it has not been made official, Rodríguez has left the Washington Spirit and joined Club América after she was seen in a video training in Mexico City. It’s just a matter of time until she is officially announced as leaving the NWSL, where she was mostly used as a late sub if at all. 

Latina players receiving little playing time is not new in the NWSL. When the league started in 2013, the Canadian, Mexican, and American soccer federations agreed to subsidize the salaries of their national team players who agreed to play in the NWSL. But the Mexican Federation got so fed up with their players’ treatment that they pulled their funding entirely in 2016. This, among other factors, eventually led to the formation of the Liga MX Femenil in 2017, which has seen a lot of growth in a short period. 

This growth has attracted players from the United States, especially Latina players who have now been presented with a second professional opportunity in North America. In just this last month, five players from the NCAA headed straight to Liga MX Femenil instead of entering the NWSL Draft. The most recent player to do so was Maricarmen Reyes, who decided to play for Tigres Femenil. While some fans would have wanted Reyes to play in the NWSL, specifically for her hometown Angel City FC, her decision to play in Mexico was for the best. 

Latina players have more options now

Considering ACFC’s history with Latina players, who knows if Reyes would have even seen the field? This was the case for Stefany Ferrer Van Ginkel, who was heavily used for marketing purposes when Tigres Femenil and the Mexican National Team played international friendlies against Angel City, but played very little outside of those games. The club made their position clear: Ferrer Van Ginkel was good enough to use for marketing, but not good enough to see the pitch.

The same goes for Katie Johnson, another Mexican international who has seen limited playing time for the San Diego Wave. Fans in both Mexico and the United States have recognized Johnson’s potential as a playmaker, yet she’s spent most of her professional career on the bench. If this is the atmosphere that Reyes would have entered, it’s no wonder that she chose Tigres over the NWSL. 

Why should Latina players stay in a league that does not give them a chance when they can instead go to a league that values them? Right now the NWSL is spurning players, but eventually, it will be the players spurning the NWSL.