The 2016 Liga MX Apertura campaign kicks off on Friday, and a slew of US national team players and prospects will be hoping to start their seasons off on the right foot this weekend.
Life will be a little bit tougher for many US-born players in Mexico this season, as Liga MX passed a rule earlier this week limiting the number of foreign-born players who weren’t registered with the Mexican Federation by the age of 19 allowed on gameday rosters to 10.
Of course, the 10/8 rule is far from the only USMNT-related storyline that’ll play out in Liga MX this season. Here are a few others we’ll be watching:
Gonzalez, Pachuca look to defend title
Former LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez and Pachuca will begin their defense of the 2016 Clausura title on Saturday, when they host Club Leon at the Estadio Hidalgo. Gonzalez became an immediate mainstay in Pachuca’s XI after moving to Mexico from LA following the 2015 MLS season, starting 22 of the club’s 23 matches to help them earn the best regular season defensive record in the league en route to the title.
Gonzalez was impressive for Pachuca, but he still didn’t land a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann’s final roster for this summer’s Copa America Centenario. He’ll look to continue his fine form on the club level ahead of the US’s two World Cup qualifiers in September and the start of the CONCACAF Hexagonal in November.
Castillo, Villafaña look to breakthrough
Left backs Edgar Castillo and Jorge Villafaña both had solid Clausura campaigns, with Castillo appearing regularly for regular season winners Monterrey and Villafaña establishing himself as a game-in, game-out starter for playoff qualifiers Santos Laguna after joining the club from the Portland Timbers last winter.
Despite their solid seasons, neither player got into Klinsmann’s good graces, with Castillo only making the Copa America squad as an injury replacement and Villafaña not even appearing on the US’s preliminary roster. Like Gonzalez, they’ll look to continue their solid club form this season as they attempt to establish themselves as bigger parts of the national team picture ahead of
Progress in Tijuana?
It was a tough Clausura for Tijuana’s sizable American contingent, as Xolos finished the season in 14th. The club’s American veterans had a particularly rough go, with Greg Garza not making a single appearance as he struggled with injury and Michael Orozco not seeing much time at all under former Mexican national team manager Miguel Herrera.
A couple of the club’s American youngsters fared much better than their more senior counterparts, with 21-year-old former LA Galaxy academy player Paul Arriola becoming a solid option off the bench and Amando Moreno, Alejandro Guido and John Requejo earning some first-team minutes. Arriola and Moreno did enough to earn call-ups to the US’s pre-Copa America transition camp in Miami, with Arriola making his senior national team debut in a friendly at Puerto Rico in May.
All of Tijuana’s Americans will be working for more significant roles as newly reinforced Xolos look for their first playoff appearance since 2012.
Opening weekend schedule for US notables
Friday, July 15
Tijuana (Paul Arriola, Greg Garza, Amando Moreno, Michael Orozco) vs. Monarcas Morelia, 10 pm ET
Saturday, July 16
Queretaro (Jonathan Bornstein, Luis Gil) vs. Veracruz, 6 pm ET
Monterrey (Edgar Castillo) vs. Puebla, 8 pm ET
Pachuca (Omar Gonzalez) vs. Club Leon (Miguel Ibarra, William Yarbrough), 8 pm ET
Necaxa vs. Cruz Azul (Rafael Baca), 10 pm ET
Liga de Ascenso -- Dorados de Sinaloa (Joe Corona) vs. Tampico Madero, 11 pm ET
Sunday, July 17
Santos Laguna (Jorge Villafaña) vs. Tigres UANL (Jose Torres, Luis Silva), 7 pm ET