<
>

Santos Laguna's strength is its 'Warrior Factory' for Liga MX talent

Editor's Note: this story was originally published on ESPN Mexico.

Santos has achieved seven Championships at different levels in Mexican soccer over the past five years. Only a couple of those, the 2013 and 2015 Clausura tournaments, went to its Primera Division side. The rest is divided among Santos' U-17 and U-20 squads, which have become a veritable "Warrior Factory" for top talent.

At the U-17 tournament, Santos has played in five of the 12 most recent final matches. However, they have only been able to win the trophy in two occasions: the 2015 and 2017 Apertura matches. Currently, they are in the semifinals and looking to achieve back-to-back titles. The U-20 side is the most decorated within the Santos development system. They went all the way in the 2013 Apertura tournament, followed by the 2015 and 2017 Apertura championships. However, they've been eliminated from the current edition after being eliminated by Pumas at the quarterfinal stage.

Both teams have become footballer factories, having its players being promoted to the Primera side where they're trying to achieve another championship for the senior team. But in order to get to the decisive match in 2018, they must first beat America in the semifinals.

Robert Dante Siboldi used three former prospects in the quarterfinals, where Santos beat Tigres. In the first leg, Jose Abella and Jesus Angulo were in the starting XI. Angulo won the U-20 title in the 2015 Apertura and was also was part of the U-17 roster that came out victorious in the Dallas Cup of the same year and Abella, who debuted in 2013, was part of the first team set-up from an early age.

Angulo and Abella both featured in the second leg of the quarterfinal against Tigres. In the same game, full-back Jorge Sanchez came off the bench in the 54th minute: he was part of the runner-up squad for the 2014 U-17 Apertura and claimed the title in the 2015 U-20 Apertura.

Three other bench players have also gone through their whole development process playing for Santos' academy sides. Goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo was part of the U-20 side that claimed the 2015 Apertura Title. Gerardo Arteaga has a U-15 championship on his resume; Ulises Rivas boasts two U-20 trophies.

The "Santos Factory" has not just produced players for its own organization, either. It has also exported several names, even to Europe. That is the case for Joao Maleck and Uriel Antuna. The former made the jump to Porto, playing for its U-19 side. Antuna was signed by Manchester City, who loaned him to Groningen in the Dutch Eredivisie, where he played 11 matches.

Guadalajara signed Gael Sandoval and Ronaldo Cisneros in the most recent transfer window. The former "Santos warriors" were champions in its development system but they've gone elsewhere in search of more minutes.