Diego Lainez, Jesus Angulo lead list of Mexican youngsters ready to break out in Liga MX

There had been pressure from the media and Mexican footballers' association on Liga MX to establish rules that force clubs to give youngsters more playing time. And it worked: For the 2018 Apertura, the league has added a regulation to ensure each club gives players, born in 1997 or before, at least 765 minutes of playing time during the regular season.

The rule comes in at an interesting time for the Mexican national team. El Tri will require a gradual generational change at some point between now and the 2022 World Cup. So which players stand to benefit most?

Here are five born in 1997 or later, who, though yet to establish themselves in Liga MX, are primed for breakthrough seasons. As a disclaimer, the likes of Monterrey's Cesar Montes and Jonathan Gonzalez, Pachuca's Erick Aguirre, Club America duo Edson Alvarez and Carlos Vargas and Cruz Azul's Roberto Alvarado have been left out, given they already feature regularly in league play.

Jose Hernandez (21 years old; Goalkeeper, Atlas)

"Pepe" Hernandez will not be in Colombia with Mexico's Under-21s for one reason: it looks like he will start for Atlas. Coach Gerardo Espinoza has handed Hernandez the No. 1 shirt for a club that produced Oswaldo Sanchez and Jesus Corona, but has been starved of homegrown goalkeeping talent for some time.

Hernandez's performances at the Toulon Tournament earlier this summer highlighted that he will need to work on coming for crosses and controlling his penalty area better, but that is normal for a young goalkeeper and the Guadalajara native is very highly thought of despite his short stature (6'0) for the position.

Hernandez distributes the ball well, is brave, quick, confident and a good shot-stopper. If he does indeed begin the season as the starter at Atlas, he has the opportunity of a lifetime in front of him.

Jorge Sanchez (20; Right-Back, Club America)

A physical right-back who is strong in the tackle and decent in the air, Sanchez already has 32 Liga MX games under his belt, although he only featured once for Santos Laguna in 2018.

An offseason move to Club America should mean more playing time and -- like winger Alvarado moving from Necaxa to Cruz Azul -- may have come about because clubs want quality U21s in order to fulfill the requirements of the new rule.

Sanchez is a natural right-back, but has been featuring in Club America's preseason in the left full-back position. Sanchez has travelled with Mexico's U21s to the Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia and while he may struggle to be a regular starter at Las Aguilas with Paul Aguilar at right-back and Luis Reyes on the left, the Torreon native -- who will wear No. 3 for Club America this season -- is in line for minutes.

Sanchez was also named to the best XI at the Toulon Tournament earlier this summer.

Diego Lainez (18; Winger, Club America)

A potential star for Mexico for years to come, it is a shame in some ways that Lainez will also be in Colombia with El Tri's U21s, given Club America will be without creative forces Cecilio Dominguez and Jeremy Menez for the start of the Apertura.

Lainez is one of those players that instantly catches the eye, with his glue-like control of the ball, skill and daring and sharp changes of directions. He's also able to play on either wing or behind a centre-forward.

As a word of caution, the Tabasco native is yet to fully step up at first-team level and although he has certainly shown flashes, the youngster hasn't influenced many games. It's not necessarily a criticism, but does highlight that there is much still to do to polish his game and for him to live up to the warranted hype.

Now that Lainez has turned 18, his career is at something of a crossroads. There is a possibility that Club America allows him to leave for Europe, although it will likely take a hefty transfer fee. If not, this is a player that really needs minutes in the first team to continue his development.

Jesus Angulo (20; Left-Back, Santos Laguna)

The left-back was one of the leaked names on Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio's list of "next generation" El Tri players and Angulo certainly impressed when he was forced to step in and start games during Santos Laguna's run to the championship last season.

Angulo -- known to teammates as "Stitch" at Santos Laguna -- can play both center-back and left-back, although given his height, how good he looked in the Clausura playoffs moving forward with the ball and his long throw, he'll likely end up as a full-back long-term

The player has been handed the No. 4 shirt for this season and should be battling for minutes with United States international Jorge Villafana on the left.

Alexis Vega (20; Striker, Toluca)

Vega was unlucky to see his 2018 Clausura end in March due to a knee complaint that led to surgery to remove some loose cartilage. It was actually the third time his right knee has been operated on, including an ACL rupture in 2016, and while that may be concerning, it is balanced out by what Vega has shown so far when he's been healthy.

Vega is strong, good in the air, sharp in the box and a projected future national team striker, especially with that being a position in which Mexico doesn't have much depth.

With Colombian striker Fernando Uribe having moved on to Flamengo in the offseason, Vega could well get opportunities, even more so as Toluca doesn't have a wealth of younger player to fill that 765 minutes requirement.

Others to watch

Francisco Cordova (21; Necaxa); Edson Torres (20), Alan Cervantes (20), Ronaldo Cisneros (21; Chivas); Brian Figueroa (19; Pumas); Francisco Figueroa (19; Pachuca); Ismael Govea (21), Cristian Calderon (21; Atlas).