Moscato's historic coaching run in Mexico highlights need for Canadian women's domestic soccer league

Former Canadian defender Carmelina Moscato made history in Mexico after her career took a sudden turn. She led Tigres to the Apertura league title last November, becoming the first foreign-born coach to win the Mexican league, and the first female head coach at Tigres to win a championship.

Former Canada defender made history as 1st foreign-born coach to win Mexican title

Tigres UANL Femenil coach Carmelina Moscato gestures with both arms spread out wide during the women's Liga MX Apertura 2022 final football match.
Tigres UANL coach Carmelina Moscato is seen during the women's Liga MX Apertura 2022 final football match at the Universitario stadium in Monterrey, Mexico, in November. (Julio Cesar Aguilar/AFP via Getty Images)

Carmelina Moscato was living and coaching in Denmark when her career took a sudden turn that led to her making history in Mexico.

The former defender, who played professionally for clubs in five different countries, earned 94 caps for Canada from 2002 to 2015, becoming one of the team's most trusted players while competing at three FIFA World Cups, and winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Moscato was eager to remain involved in the sport after she hung up her cleats and served as coach and assistant with Canada's under-15 and under-20 teams. In 2019, she was hired by Canadian Soccer Business (CSB), owners and operators of the Canadian Premier League, where she was named its manager of women's professional football development.

She left that position in late 2020 and became the director of women's football for the Bahamas Football Association in early 2021. Later that year, she took over at Danish outfit FC Nordsjælland, her first head coaching gig at club level.

A move to Mexico the following summer saw her become technical director and head coach of Tigres UANL, one of the biggest teams in Liga MX Femenil, Mexico's top division.

It turned out to be a historical appointment, as Moscato guided Tigres to the 2022-23 Apertura league title last November, becoming the first foreign-born coach to win the Mexican league, and the first female head coach at Tigres to win a championship.

"I wasn't even looking for this opportunity with Tigres," Moscato told CBC Sports. "My plan was to stay in Denmark for two years and then look elsewhere, but after signing with [my current agent] they told me they had a project for me to consider in Mexico.

"Because of all the work we had done at the CSB, I knew a lot about the Mexican league: when it started — why it started, etc. So, my interest was piqued and when I heard it was with Tigres, I was all ears.... Tigres matched my ambition, and they had what I was looking for: a club committed to investing in women's football."

Carmelina Moscato, coach of Tigres UANL femenil, smiles and talks to her player Uchenna Kanu, right, on the sidelines.
Carmelina Moscato laughs with her player Uchenna Kanu, right, prior to a second leg match between Tigres UANL and America as part of the Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX Femenil final in November. (Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Moscato, a 38-year-old native of Mississauga, Ont., had to hit the ground running when she arrived in Mexico to take over the reins at the fabled Monterrey-based club. The season was about to start, but Tigres was missing several of its top players who were away on national team duty.

That didn't mean much to the team's rabid fan base, who had grown accustomed to success. The pressure was on Moscato to produce results right away.

"Tigres had won four out of a possible nine championships [since the Mexican league's formation in 2016] before I got there, and the team had the same group of players, more or less. But they had gotten off track and not competed in the playoffs in the manner that they had hoped," Moscato said.

"Still, the expectations are to win because it's one of the biggest clubs in Mexico."

'You have to win at Tigres'

A rough beginning to the Apertura campaign by Tigres put Moscato behind the eight-ball. But the team eventually found its footing under the Canadian coach and finished third in standings before going undefeated in six playoff games to win the championship.

"We lost and tied our first two matches, and I was called out in the media: 'Get her out of here! She doesn't know what she's doing!' ... there are a lot of people invested in this team and it's do-or-die," Moscato said. "You have to win at Tigres. That was a different challenge for me because I'm not a win-at-all-costs kind of coach.

"I'm very proud of how we won the championship — with team unity, playing better football and slowly but surely getting to where we had to be."

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Last November's two-legged final saw Tigres beat Club América 1-0 in Mexico City's historic Estadio Azteca in the opener. Three days later, a sold-out crowd of 41,615 fans packed Monterrey's Estadio Universitario, nicknamed El Volcán (The Volcano), and watched as Tigres earned a 2-0 win in the return match to lift the championship trophy. 

As her players celebrated with supporters and fireworks went off inside the stadium, Moscato held an impromptu post-match press conference with a throng of reporters right on the pitch.

"'How does it feel to be the first woman and the first foreigner [to win the Mexican league]?' I had reporters from 30 media outlets huddled around me asking me that same question in a variety of ways," Moscato said. "I must have answered that question dozens of times, but it was never on my mind once at all during the season and playoffs.

"I wasn't made to feel differently or that I was special by the people at Tigres. I was just a coach who wanted an opportunity to prove herself."

Carmelina Moscato, right, coach of Tigres UANL femenil, talks to and embraces the father of a player.
Moscato is seen talking to the father of one of her players prior to Tigres UANL's Torneo Apertura second-leg match in 2022. (Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Canadian women's pro league coming

The fact that Moscato had to go to Mexico to prove herself is somewhat of a sore spot for the former Canadian international.

Despite the Canadian women's team winning three consecutive Olympic medals, including gold at the Tokyo Games, Canada doesn't have its own domestic pro league. As a result, Moscato and her colleagues, including former teammate Rhian Wilkinson, who coached and led the Portland Thorns to last year's NWSL Championship, must search for professional coaching opportunities abroad.

"Not everyone can pick up and leave like I did," Moscato added. "I chose this, so it wasn't a difficult decision to leave family and friends. I'm not a victim by any means. I chose this path. But it does feel a little odd to not be able to continue to pour my passion into the Canadian game and system, because that's what it's really about.

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"Right now, I'm doing it, but I'm pouring it into Mexican football.... But at some point, Canadian coaches have to be given the opportunity to do that for Canadian players. Right now, they don't have that."

One of Moscato's former teammates is taking action.

Diana Matheson recently announced her plans to launch a domestic professional women's league. Matheson and her company Project 8 are spearheading the development, while current Canadian captain Christine Sinclair is involved as an adviser. The league — yet to be named — is planning to kick off in April 2025 with eight teams.

"It was time.... I think Canada is crying out for a pro women's league," Matheson told CBC Sports.

"I think this is the next step, and hopefully soccer is just the beginning, and that we see more professional women's sports leagues in the coming years."

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John Molinaro

Freelance contributor

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for a number of media outlets, including CBC Sports, Sportsnet and Sun Media. During his time at CBC Sports, John travelled to South Africa to cover the 2010 FIFA World Cup for He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of the Canadian game.

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