Next up, Bayern Munich! How Tigres Femenil are helping to drive Mexican women’s soccer forward
It’s only six years ago that Liga MX Femenil began but, today, it boasts viewing figures and attendances that surpass that of the NWSL, the top league in the neighbouring United States, by some distance.
The Mexican football federation allocated its players to clubs across the border for the NWSL's first four seasons, but then decided to form its own league.
Fast-forward to this weekend and Bayern Munich will become the latest, and most high-profile, visitors to the Mexican women’s game, set to face Tigres in the club’s newly-formed Copa Amazonas.
Mexico's most successful women's team has just won its fifth league title. The first leg of that final, played at Club America’s Estadio Azteca, attracted 52,654 fans - a league record. The second leg, played in front of 41,615 at Tigres' Estadio Universitario, racked up TV ratings that made it the most watched women’s football match in history in North America.
Liga MX Femenil spent the first few years of its existence focusing on homegrown talent, with only Mexican-born players eligible for the first two campaigns, before foreign-born Mexican players were allowed to play from the third season.
Now, with the league having established a quality pool of homegrown talent, clubs have four international spots each. It adds different qualities from a sporting perspective – and the opportunity for the league to reach new markets from a commercial one.
Right at the forefront of this growth of Mexican women’s soccer is Tigres, a club that has always thought creatively about how to improve on both fronts.
Copa Amazonas is the latest example of that, a competition that will see top level opposition visit Mexico every year to compete with Tigres Femenil.
It’s little surprise that the Monterrey-based club is the one to build something like this. In 2019, its women’s team became the first to have an international game with an NWSL side, playing the Houston Dash home and away.
Last year alone, the team went to Texas to play games against the University of Texas and Austin Elite FC, then announced a partnership with NWSL expansion team Angel City FC, facing the team – co-owned by names such as Natalie Portman and Serena Williams – in a friendly in California.
“As a club, we have always tried to do things differently, thinking outside the box,” Carlos Valenzuela, the commercial vice-president of Tigres, tells GOAL. “We know that the women's game is growing fast worldwide and there are clubs in other countries who share our vision, values and responsibilities when it comes to pushing boundaries and opening more spaces for women in sports.
“We're trying to connect with clubs who are on the same path, with whom we can share many things beyond what happened on the pitch during the games. That's why we try to go further and not just have friendlies but create alliances with those clubs that benefit us both.”
One of Tigres’ goals for 2026 is to “become the preferred Mexican women’s team in the United States”. These fixtures and relationships help the club “understand” the U.S. market more.
Valenzuela explains that the team has seen an increase in its presence in the States after every game played there, as well as since Mia Fishel, the club’s talented American forward, arrived at the club.
But Tigres’ vision is not all about commercial success. It’s also about sporting success.
Carmelina Moscato is a former Canada international who represented her country on 94 occasions, winning a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. In the summer of 2022, she became the head coach of Tigres Femenil, having spent many years admiring the growth of Mexican women’s soccer from afar.
Within a few weeks of arriving at the club, Moscato would lead her team out in one of its international experiences as they visited Angel City. It’s a trip she describes as having “so many wins” both “on and off the pitch”.
“We got to connect with our community and our fandom there and, in fact, grow it, which was always one of the objectives,” Moscato tells GOAL. “Our players got to leave the country and experience an NWSL stadium, an NWSL team, the intensity.
"They have some world-class players on that roster so, as much as we have that within our own roster, we don't get to necessarily compete against that every single fixture. I think it gave us a good perspective and gave us confidence.
“As a coach, you look and you see that we were super competitive, which means that there's a bit of a buy-in there from the players - the strategies, the way we defended, the way we yielded many opportunities from our high press, then we learned we needed to work on our possession a little bit more, how we built out of the back.
“We got that information against the highest levels. I took tons of information back to the league and I used it, like I would any other match. I just continue to build on it.”
A few months later, Tigres won the league. Of course, that doesn’t solely come from playing these games, but there’s no doubt they help the team get better - therefore acting as opportunities that tick all the boxes for the club.
“I know the commercial goals are very clear - globalise the brand,” Moscato adds. “I buy into that. I support it and I think it's fantastic. From a sporting perspective, it's very unique. As we know, there's no Club World Cup yet so there's no other way to gauge your levels, no other way to gauge your players' potential, maybe just to see how it goes for the group in terms of what that competition level is like.
“For us to be able to say we actually contended with Angel City, we lost narrowly 1-0, that gives everybody a bit of information to say - the levels that we're achieving here in Mexico without context just seems pretty cool. But when you start to match it up against other leagues, we all get a gauge. I think the globe gets a gauge.”
While the U.S. may be the focus commercially, Valenzuela notes “small” presences in Colombia and Nigeria, due to Natalia Gaitan and Uchenna Kanu occupying international spots on the team alongside Fishel.
NEW All of US episode 🚨— Ameé Ruszkai (@ameeruszkai) February 16, 2022
We're joined by #USWNT prospect @miafishel10, who talks about her historic decision to move to @TigresFemenil and play in @LigaBBVAFemenil instead of NWSL 🇲🇽
"I deserve to be in a place where I would be appreciated and seen.” 🔥https://t.co/4Gbo43TAQK
The Copa Amazonas will only open up new markets, too, while giving Moscato’s team new experiences, starting with this clash against Bayern.
“We are eager to show the world what Tigres Femenil is,” Valenzuela explains. “I guess the idea is a combination of two main things - giving our team the exposure that they deserve in terms of marketing and brand awareness but also, on the sporting side, having these top-class teams coming each year to play a game like that, it's just great for everyone.”
Moving forward, Moscato could have an opportunity to cherry-pick opponents based on the styles she wants to test her team against, too.
“I think if we were to couple the sporting objectives a little bit closer, which I know is on the horizon, you would pick the style of play, you'd pick the caliber of team, you'd pick the right level of challenge,” she says.
“I would dig into the French, the English, the Spanish leagues and start to look at, 'Is it Barca or is it Atletico Madrid?' Because that's where I want to have a bit of the ball and maybe that's going to be the challenge we're facing. There's always ways to be more strategic with this. We're just beginning the Copa Amazonas and I think it's going to develop as we go.”
“It's all about us being in the same boat, and growing together as a club, right?” Valenzuela adds. “Which means we all have to be on the same page. This is a team and we're a big family, so our objectives are aligned as an institution.”
So far, that’s served Tigres well in Mexico and turned plenty of heads in the United States. Now, the club has the opportunity and quality to catch the eyes of the whole world.