Much like the majority of the soccer world, Liga MX starts in early August and runs till late May or early June. There’s a few things that differ there from the European leagues many people would be accustom to. Unlike the EPL of England or La Liga of Spain, Liga MX is split up into two seasons within the soccer calendar year. This two season system is much more commonly found in South America like in Argentina. There’s the Apertura (opening season), which goes from August to mid-December. After a break for the holidays, the Clausura season (closing season) begins from January to June.
Liga MX consist of 18 teams. There’s the “Big Four” which are Chivas de Guadalajara, Club America, Pumas, and Cruz Azul. Historically they’re the most successful teams and come from Mexico’s two biggest cities of Mexico City and Guadalajara. America, Pumas and Cruz Azul all play in Mexico City and Chivas from Guadalajara. Besides Chivas, Guadalajara also have another team in the first division in Club Atlas.
In north Mexico there’s a slew of teams with the border city of Tijuana in Club Tijuana being the most north, and Mexico’s third biggest city Monterrey, having two teams in FC Monterrey and Tigres (the defending champions). Also across north Mexico is Santos Laguna and Dorados in Sinaloa.
The most southern team in Liga MX is F.C. Chiapas and the most eastern is Veracruz from the same coastal state name. Just east of Guadalajara is Morelia and just outside of Mexico City is Toluca. While the rest of the teams each represent some historic cities of Mexican culture such as Pachuca, Leon, Queretaro, and Puebla.
Each season consist of a 17 game season with each team playing each other once, and the following season playing the same schedule but with a switch in venue (for example, if Pumas host Tigres in week three of the Apertura, Tigres will host Pumas in week three of the Clausura).
Also unlike most other leagues, the season doesn’t end after the 17 game season. The top eight teams qualify to what is known as La Liguilla, or playoffs. The winner and finalist of each Apertura and Clausura seasons earn the four spots in the following years CONCACAF Champions League (Pumas and Tigres). While the best two finishers during the Apertura regular season table who are not participating in the CONCACAF Champions League, earn a spot into the COMNEBOL Copa Libertadores group stage (Pumas and Toluca). The third spot goes to the winner of Mexico’s domestic cup competition, Copa MX, earning a spot in the Copa Libertadores play-in stage (Puebla).
As with any domestic league, for every championship and trophy celebrated, there has to be someone who is relegated. Again, like the double seasons and Liguilla, Liga MX does things a bit differently. Similar to Argentina, Liga MX’s relegation is a bit different. The team with the lowest combined total of points at the year doesn’t go down. Instead, it’s the combination of your total points earned over total games played (not including playoffs), over a three year span. The team with the lowest percentage is the one that’s relegated. It’s done this way in part to protect the leagues big teams from being relegated by giving them a chance to regroup if they have a bad year.
With only a few days left till another season kicks off, keep following VAVEL USA Soccer for more Liga MX preview information.