A little over a year ago, I wrote an article -Jeff Luhnow: The Next Chapter. Luhnow at the time was rumored to be interested in acquiring a Liga MX team and there were potential talks of a partnership between him and Netflix’s series Club de Cuervos. While that’s not exactly the path it took,Luhnow officially owns a professional soccer team in Mexico.
For those of you not familiar with Cancun FC - that is completely understandable. The club recently changed their name from Cafetaleros de Chiapas with their relocation to Cancun. Which allowed Luhnow to set roots into one of the elite tourist attraction and metropolitan cities in the country for his new team.
Previously, Cancun had been home to Atlante FC, but with their relocation to Mexico City, the chance to build an organization, particularly as the Mexican-US league / cups begin to develop provides a goldmine of opportunity.
We’ve seen Jeff Luhnow revolutionize a sport before but he will face an new challenge entirely moving into the world of Soccer/Futbol. In my article from last year, we talked about some of the differences within Soccer’s financial model that Luhnow could utilize given his skillset and the challenges of analytics in a much more dynamic sport.
Cancun FC was previously known as Cafetaleros de Chiapas while based in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas. They played in the Liga Premier de Mexico (3rd tier league) as well as Ascenso MX (2nd tier league). In 2018, the team actually won the Ascenso MX but were not promoted as their team did not meet therequirements. With the recent move and change in leadership, they have began playing in the Liga MX Expansion.
If you’re familiar with soccer, you can skip this paragraph about promotion/relegation. Many soccer leagues have a promotion and relegation system built into their structure. This is a foreign concept to US sports, but provides a really unique competitive aspect. Want to get rid of the Orioles and Reds tanking? Make it so that if they are one of the worst teams, they get demoted to a lower level. One of the best teams at a lower level? Promoted to a higher league. This is a simplistic explanation, but it provides an incredible amount of drama and excitement to lower placed teams (will they be demoted?) and the stakes for championships at lower levels suddenly have a drastically higher impact (and millions of dollars at stake). It also provides a chance for a intelligent and advanced lower level teams to climb through the ranks making their team and players exponentially more valuable. Admittedly, I don’t have the same level of expertise in soccer as baseball, but I believeBrentford FCis a prime example in the Premier League of utilizing Analytics to overcome massive differentials in salaries and ability to scout/sell players. Analytics are more an emerging aspect for the sport, so Luhnow’s abilities should provide a differentiating factor for his team.
Initially, promotion and relegation will not be a top concern for the team as Luhnow takes the helm as Mexico agreed to put a pause on promotion and relegation to build out the second tier of soccer in Mexico. With this, they formed the Liga MX Expansion (changing the name from Ascenso as the teams would not be ascending). I have seen mixed reports on when it will resume, but a few reports showed as soon as 2023.
Additionally, theLeague’s Cupwill begin in 2023, placing the top MLS and Mexican teams up against each other in an official competition of the CONCACAF Champions league.
This gives Luhnow a very short window to breath as he builds out the new organization. But in Luhnow style, it did not take long before he began to make some impacts.
The first? Hiring of Inigo Idiakez. If you’re not familiar with him, Inigo was an ex-player playing for marquee teams in Spain and England, with some notable successes on his resume including a Player of the Season in the Championship League. In the past decade, Idiakez transitioned from player to coach with a focus on development (from my brief scan) including roles of Youth Development Coach (Leicester City), Professional Development Lead Coach (League 2 Luton Town). I’m sure there will be more details coming as the official introduction for him as a coach will be hosted today.
Cancun FC’s twitter just posted a bunch of announcements welcoming staff - if there’s interest I will put some time into outlining their backgrounds.
If you’re wondering the best way to watch, it seems like the Liga MX Expansion viewing is almost as fragmented as MLB’s. I will update this article once I’ve found a good approach for those interested (or if any of our commenters know, please share!)
The team will actually be playing against vs Club America today.
Starting on the ground floor of building a whole new death star.