Liga MX is returning to Juarez, though perhaps not in the way fans would’ve expected.
The city on the border with El Paso, Texas, hasn’t had a first-division team since Indios went down after the Bicentenario 2010 tournament. A second-division side known as FC Juarez launched in 2015, falling just short of promotion on a number of occasions and finishing as the Copa MX runner-up this year.
That club, or at least a club with the same Bravos de Juarez identity, will play in Liga MX from the 2019 Apertura with Lobo BUAP moving north to assume their identity.
“Club Lobos BUAP will change site for the Apertura 2019 tournament to the state of Chihuahua, converting into the Bravos of Ciudad Juarez,” read a Lobos statement released Tuesday. “Because of that, it’s fundamental for us as directors to thank the fans for their valiant support in the top division during these two years, to everyone who was part of this project – from coaching staffs, players, staff and even everyone involved in an indirect manner.”
The league approved the change at its general meeting, it confirmed in a news release, with Juarez also taking Lobos’ place in the U-20, U-17, U-15, U-13 leagues and also assuming its spot in the women’s league, Liga MX Femenil.
While unwieldy, the move echoes similar occurrences that happened in the past. Queretaro should have been relegated in 2013 but the club in Chiapas relocated there while the club based in San Luis moved to Chiapas. That left fans in San Luis without a team. La Piedad, the team set to be promoted, also was purchased and folded. Despite Lobos moving, Puebla still has a first-division club with Club Puebla now the only Liga MX team in the colonial city of 1.5 million just east of Mexico City. A new team in San Luis Potosi, Atletico San Luis, earned promotion this spring.
Lobos BUAP should have gone down to the second division in 2018 but, with the Ascenso champion that season not meeting the first division’s requirements, was able to pay a fine to remain in the top division. This year’s relegated team, Veracruz, opted to the same, and Liga MX will have 19 teams in the upcoming season.
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Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla clarified that the league did not broker the deal but said the rest of the league’s owners did unanimously agree to sanction the move after being satisfied that Juarez’s ownership is financially viable.
“FC Juarez is going to participate in the next Liga MX tournament, substituting Lobos BUAP and that is done,” he said at a news conference. “It is an agreement in the assembly and we’re working on the calendars so Club Juarez is included in the 19 members of Liga MX.”
Lobos BUAP acquired Juarez’s current slot in the Ascenso but won’t field a team in the upcoming Apertura season, meaning the second division will have 14 teams.