Why Mexico is fielding one of its youngest teams ever vs. Colombia at the Coliseum

One of Jaime Lozano’s chief tasks when he was put in charge of the Mexico national team last summer was to make its talent pool deeper and younger. Which brings us to Saturday’s friendly with Colombia, to be played in front of an expected crowd of more than 60,000 at the Coliseum.

Fifteen of the 22 players Lozano called up have never played for the national team; 10 of them are 23 or younger. It is one of the youngest and least-experienced rosters in the history of the national team, and many of those selected haven’t played in a game since their club seasons ended a month ago.

There are reasons for that. The game, the last one of 2023 for Mexico, falls outside a FIFA international date, meaning Lozano was prohibited from calling up most of his first-choice players, who are competing for their European clubs. He was also unable to summon players from the best three teams in Mexico’s domestic Liga MX because Club América and Tigres will play in the league final Sunday and León participated Thursday in the FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

“There are some players who can’t come,” Lozano, Mexico’s third coach in 12 months, said in Spanish before Friday’s training session. “That’s the reality.”

As a result, what was expected to be a B team is probably a C or D team; more an open tryout than a national team camp.

Lozano, however, is making the best of the circumstances.

“Principally, giving opportunities to players we don’t often see,” Lozano said when asked the goal of the game. “With the national team, every game counts. It’s important, the results. But in this game, it’s much more important to see which players can hook on with the national team.”

The opportunity is especially timely for Puebla forward Guillermo Martínez and Monterrey midfielder Alfonso González. Martínez, 28, whose 11 goals in the Apertura led all Mexican players, is getting his first chance to play with the senior national team while González, 29, has played only once for Mexico since 2014.

Mexico fielded the second-oldest roster in each of the last two World Cups, exiting in the group stage last fall in Qatar, the team’s worst performance in the tournament in 44 years. And Lozano’s rebuilding project is running short on time. In March, Mexico will play in the Nations League semifinals in Arlington, Texas., then in June it will take part in Copa América, a 16-team tournament featuring 10 South American countries, including Brazil and Argentina, the reigning world champion.

Because Mexico — along with the U.S. and Canada — has already qualified for the next World Cup as one of three host countries, the Copa América looms as the team’s most important measuring stick ahead of 2026.

“It is match by match,” Lozano said. “This match with Colombia is very important, as the Nations League will be later. But it is going to be Copa América, in the end. It is the most preparation tournament.”