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Explainer: Three-Digit Uni Numbers in Mexican Soccer

[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry from Omar Jalife, who’s going to Omar-splain something that’s shown up a few times in the Ticker. — PL]

By Omar Jalife

Throughout the season I’ve seen a lot of Ticker submissions about Mexican soccer players wearing three-digit uniform numbers. I’ve responded to a couple of these in the comments, but it keeps showing up, so here’s an explanation.

Three-digit numbers are not uncommon in Mexico, and the reason is very simple. All LigaMX (first division) teams are required to field, besides their major team, U-20, U-17, U-15, and U-13 teams, which have a simultaneous championship as the top tier.

Now, all players registered directly in the LigaMX must have a two-digit number, as is usually done throughout international soccer. In an effort to avoid certain confusion in the youth tournaments, the Football Federation decided that numbers across all teams could not be repeated. So if the goalkeeper of the LigaMX club is No. 1, nobody else on the U-20, U-17, or other youth teams can be No. 1.

Imagine if an MLB team used this format throughout its farm system. If David Wright wore No. 5 for the Mets, no other player in the Mets’ farm system could wear No. 5. And the whole system would quickly run out of one- and two-digit numbers.

Why do they do this in Mexican soccer? When a minor player is called up to the top team, he maintains his same number and registration. It streamlines the process and avoids kids having to change their numbers as they grow older. Also, if a player from the top team gets injured and needs to slowly get back into shape, you can send him to the U-20 to play a couple of games and he gets to keep his number, since nobody else is using it. This is done on a season-by-season basis when the teams register their players in August.

Every team has at least 23 players, and we’re talking about five teams (four youth and one senior), so you can see why three-digit numbers become necessary. Although it’s not a rule, teams have generally preferred to jump to the three digits for U-somethings as a way to make it easier to identify who is on the senior team and who’s not.

The only other times that three-digit numbers have been used were as follows:

•  During the 1995-96 season, Jesús Arellano wore No. 400, because the city of Monterrey was turning 400 years old. I couldn’t find picture, but here’s a 2010 article, in Spanish, about how he got the jersey back from a fan.

•  In 2006, Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista wore No. 100 to commemorate the 100th Birthday of his team, Chivas de Guadalajara.


Paul here. Good stuff, Omar — thanks for the explainer. Now that I know the three-digit numbers aren’t all that uncommon, we’ll stop mentioning them in the Ticker.

•  •  •  •  •

The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: Padres P Brad Hand wore his stirrups backwards yesterday. He had the high side in front (from Sean Mitchell). … Hanley Ramirez has varied up his sock stylings during his two-season BoSox tenure. Andy Chalifour reports that he started June low-cuffed, then went high-cuffed in mid-June, and has since gone back to pajama pants. … Wilson Ramos and his wife and daughter took a trip to the American Bison exhibit at the National Zoo while wearing customized Nationals jerseys. The catcher’s nickname is “Buffalo,” either because of his toughness or his husky frame (from John Muir). … Former Washington QBs Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer wore Nats caps at the game last night. Jurgensen wore the same cap, then a Senators hat, 45 years ago (from William Yurasko). … The Reds retired Pete Rose’s number on Sunday. The team painted “14 Forever” into the dirt in front of the dugout for it (from Alex). … The Reds also painted the logo on the back of the mound red for last weekend’s games. The wishbone-C is usually white (from Joanna Zwiep). … Also from Joanna, Reds P John Lamb wore stirrups Tuesday night. He normally wears solid red socks. … Mike Piazza’s post-9/11 NYPD catcher’s helmet is up for auction (from Phil). … A miniature Wrigley Field was made out of Lego blocks. … Yesterday’s Ticker noted that Cubs 3B Kris Bryant planned to keep wearing his “lucky” torn pants from his record-setting Monday-night game. But Matt Shepardson notes that Bryant didn’t wear the torn pants on Tuesday after all, and he says there was no sign of the tear in yesterday’s game either.

Pro and College Football News: For a community service event, Browns players wore orange jerseys with “#Give10” on the sleeves, which means to give 10 community service hours (from Chris Keeney). … Abilene Christian will unveil new uniforms on Friday (from Chris Mycoskie). … Bill Simmons’s new TV show used the wrong NFL logo last night.

Hockey News: The Maple Leafs are mulling over whether to take action against Snoop Dogg’s new weed product company, Leafs by Snoop, whose name and logo are very Maple Leafs-like (from Charles Noerenberg). … The KHL’s new franchise looks to have ripped off the logo of the Guild Wars 2 video game.

Basketball News: The Pistons’ Stanley Johnson will change his uni number from No. 3 to No. 7 in honor of Ben Wallace. Detroit retired Big Ben’s No. 3 in January. The Pistons apparently don’t take numbers out of circulation before retiring them, because though the team retired Chauncey Billups’s No 1 in February, current PG Reggie Jackson wears the number. … The Phoenix Mercury will wear a memorial band for Pat Summitt (from Phil). … The Tulsa Shock moved to Dallas and became the Wings before this season. ESPN ran a Shock logo (look at the header above the Dallas players) in Tuesday’s Wings-Sparks box score (from Mario Cuttone). … New court logo for St. Bonaventure. … New camouflage jerseys for Italy (from Reinis Lācis).

Soccer News: Tons of new soccer stuff today: New kits for the Queens Park Rangers (from Mark Johnson). … New away and third kits for Sevilla (from Derek Noll). … New uniforms for the German team Hertha BSC (from Ed Å»elaski). … New away kit for the French clubs RC Lens and FC Nantes (from Anne Celestino) … MLS revealed the uniform schedule for this week’s games (from Josh Hinton). … Here’s a rundown of the best kits in European Championship history (from Blake Geschke). … The sparkly sleeves on the new Olympic jersey for the US women’s team might be breaking FIFA rules. … Here’s what it would look like if a few Euro 16 kits were modeled after the beers of their respective countries (from Anthony Nuccio). … After Iceland’s upset victory over England, retailers can’t keep Iceland merch in stock (from The Boot Room).

Grab Bag: Marcus Willis, who made a recent comeback into pro tennis, lost to Roger Federer in the second round of Wimbledon yesterday. Since he doesn’t have an apparel deal, Willis mixed and matched Adidas and Nike items, including a Federer-branded shirt (from Brinke). … Also for Wimbledon, ESPN’s score bug includes a graphic that indicates whether the roof is closed. Does the network do this for other sports? (From John Muir.) … Good list here of 10 dream Buffalo sports memorabilia items (from Aaron Husul). … New Zealand unveiled its Olympic uniforms (from Phil). … A coat of arms that traces back to William Shakespeare was recently found. … Here’s the logo for the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. … Army soldiers can now literally roll up their sleeves. … Nike revealed a new colorway and new track and field shoes. … Here’s yet another story on Nike’s Wimbledon dress snafu (from Andrew Cosentino).

Comments (43)

    “I couldn’t find picture”
    “Now that I know the three-digit numbers aren’t all that uncommon, we’ll mentioning them in the Ticker.”

    And thanks to Omar for the definitive explanation.

    I came across this article while doing some digging around: link

    It appears to be in Russian or another similar language, so I am not able to read it. It shows pictures of several soccer uniform number anomalies, including the 1+8 we’ve discussed before and the 100 that Bofo wore as Omar mentioned.

    There are two very interesting photos included in the article: One is a snapshot of a newspaper article referencing some European managers’ reactions to Chelsea’s use of player numbers on soccer uniforms for the first time. The second is a photograph of a goalkeeper wearing the uniform number 2019!

    These bumper stickers were all the rage in DC in the early 70’s during the ‘Skins QB “controversy”.
    I liked ’em both!


    I like those too. I was almost hoping for a rebirth of those a few years back. One could read, “I root for Washington, and I like RGIII.”, and the other “….and I like Kirk.”.

    We had a yellow station wagon when I was a kid and I was THRILLED when I got to put an “I like Sonny” bumper sticker on it. My first sports hero and still one of my favorites.

    I’d kill to my hands on one of those bumper stickers now.

    The same thing was true with the Pistons when they retired Dennis Rodman’s #10 and Greg Monroe continued wearing 10 until he went to the Bucks last year.

    I don’t see anything wrong with 3 digit numbers even though it’s not “traditional”.

    What I would like to see is for a designation for each league level. For example if you applied it to baseball.

    You get to choose your last two numbers but based on the league you’d get a designation to show where you started for that season.

    Queens Park Rangers new kit: I’ve been a bit bothered by how dissimilar most soccer teams’ home and away uniforms are. I get the need for high contrast, and how that can mean using away colors that aren’t really team colors. But just because the colors have to be wildly different, it doesn’t follow that a team’s signature home design element can’t be used on the away unis. So I really like how Queens Park carries its hoops from home to road. The colors change, but the form is consistent, so both home and away look like the same team. At least by the standards of how most teams in non-soccer American sports do things.

    I’ve said it before, but in every appearance this off season, the Browns have worn their orange jerseys. The only exception I can think of was the draft. Has any other team ever worn nothing but their alternate for appearances?

    I’m wondering if there’s a change to orange as the primary.

    It is rare that they wear only their alternates during appearances,but in the NFL primary jerseys are presented in the draft.

    A change to orange jersey as primary for the Browns? I do not think that would ever happen. If it did, it would be a big mistake.

    Did we ever get a conclusion to the “Baseball Hosiery Census”? I must of missed it.
    As an extension, I think it’s be fun to hear what readers would wear if they made the bigs.
    Personally, I’d have classic cleats, a pine wood axe handle bat with no tar, a light tan glove, high socks (Hunter Pence style), stirrups. My socks would have stripes at the top on Sunday home games. Not that I’ve put too much thought into it or anything…

    Now, now — if you’re gonna choose that song, get the title right: It’s “Paint It, Black” (including the comma).


    Mine would be “Powerhouse,” from the old Warner Bros. cartoons. Striped stirrups invariably, with VERY little sani showing. And on the underside of my cap bill, a scrawled “Où sont les neiges d’antan?”

    Your “pine wood” axe handle bat will explode into a bazillion splinters, even if you’re bunting. If you want old school, go with hickory.

    Not in Mexico, but link in an Asian Cup qualifying match.

    Federations are required to register players with unique numbers throughout the qualifying process, and because the Socceroos used Asian Cup qualifying to experiment with younger players, single- and double-digit numbers filled up pretty quickly.

    Perhaps I’m overlooking it, but do players in Mexico not switch between organizations? If so, how do they handle it?

    If someone changes teams in winter he has to choose a new number.

    Paul, your Shakespeare link made me curious — do you lend any credence to the various Shakespeare authorship conspiracy theories?

    I’m aware of the chatter, but I’m not enough of a historian to assess how valid any of it might be.

    Gotta run — personal business to attend to. Everyone play nice, yes? Yes!

    The great thing about the Shakespeare coat of arms find is that it pretty solidly disproves the whole field of Shakespeare trutherism. We now have contemporary documents proving that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon was the same person who lived in London and led the King’s Men acting company. The newly discovered record also amply demonstrates William Shakespeare’s literacy, his presence at court, and his notoriety among his elite contemporaries as a playwright – all points where the various Shakespeare truther cases rest to one degree or another on them being false. It may be the most important find about Shakespeare in two hundred years.

    I was dating a woman a few years ago when the Shakespeare truther movie came out. I was thoroughly unimpressed. She said, “Doesn’t it make you think?” I said, “Not really.” She never called me back.

    Conspiracy theories themselves: Often really interesting.

    People who actually believe in conspiracy theories: Usually quite dull.

    You probably dodged a bullet there.

    Those Euro Cup soccer/beer kits are very well done. As a whole they are nicer than what the teams are actually wearing. I would buy the Guinness socks.

    Triple-digit numbers are uncommon in cricket, where Jamaican international and Somerset (England) T20 player Chris Gayle wears 333.

    There are a handful of others around the world.

    Am I on an island in thinking that the Snoop Leafs logo doesn’t make me think of the Toronto Maple Leafs at all? I assume they think that it’s “similar” enough that when seeing Snoop’s logo, you’ll immediately think of the TML’s, but it didn’t have that affect on me.

    I’m with you. The colors are different. The shapes are different. They’re both. . . leaves. . .

    Maybe it’s the plural “leafs” that Toronto would object to, as that is very unique.

    I think, if anything, they MIGHT have a point about the word “Leafs,” but that’s it. The article, or, I suppose I should say, the quotes within the article, are awful:

    “When you look at both the logos, there isn’t exactly a lot of resemblance except for the leaf, and the font embossed on the leaf.”

    The typefaces do not resemble on another, but what I’m really mystified by is this contradictory statement (from the same person) that appears later in the paragraph:

    “Apart from the color and font being different it goes to show…”

    Sir, is the font similar, or is it different?

    Then, the award winner for ridiculous hypotheticals:

    “To clear the above statement, Milton said that if both logos appear together, on a t-shirt or a sporting shirt they are going to cause confusion for sure.”

    Please, sir, go ahead and describe for me a situation in which this could feasibly happen. I’ll wait.

    Snoop’s leaf actually looks more like the Molson Canadian leaf used on their bottles and cans in the 1990s. Similar colour and 3D effect.

    I think the Leafs have been smoking Snoop’s leaf. This has no legal merit in my opinion. The Maple Leafs can show symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder from time to time (except when it comes to winning).

    Seems like Coastal and ASU will be playing at 1pm today for the championship all due to Coastal’s switch to UA and the Sun Belt. A lot of people are mad they put a deciding game on at 1pm during a work day just to not have Coastal possibly be wearing old or new unis and a new or old conference logo.

    Another Monterrey player used a 3-digit number in 1999. Abdul Thompson used the number 690, referring to the sports radio station XERG 690 KHz. Even the jersey number can be used for advertisement!

    RE: “The Pistons apparently don’t take numbers out of circulation before retiring them”

    If someone is still wearing the number, don’t you mean they don’t take numbers out of circulation *after* retiring them?

    The Sevilla third kit is GORGEOUS. I wish there was a shot of the shorts. I wonder if they have stripes or piping or if they’re just plain. In any case, it’s a beautiful uni.

    British non-motorcycle racing have a numbering system where only 1 driver in a particular category is assigned a number. Here is the current competitor numbering system for the top division, BRISCA Formula 1 stockcars:


    It eliminates the possible confusion that could be caused if two drivers with the same number turned up at the same meaning. As numbers can’t be shared, three-digit numbers are quite common.

    The one problem is when European drivers compete in Britain, and their number clashes with a British number. Rather than having a new number re-assigned, a prefix is added to aid with identification, such as USA, NZ, AUS or H for Holland, as in this list:


    For Wimbledon and the other tournaments with a roof, it will say Roof Closed when the roof on a stadium is closed, otherwise there is nothing there. Don’t have pics to prove it, but judging from past tournaments that seems to be the way they go..

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