As Mexico gears up for the start of Liga MX's Clausura 2016 season, VAVEL USA introduces the 18 teams of Liga MX.

Club America
Nickname: Las Aguilas (The Eagles)
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Stadium: Estadio Azteca
Rivals: Chivas De Guadalajara, Cruz Azul, Pumas

What you need to know: One of Mexico’s top two most popular clubs and Mexico’s most hated club by fans of everyone else. They are also known as one of “The Big Four” of Mexico’s teams along with Pumas, Chivas, and Cruz Azul. They are the winningest club in Mexico with twelve domestic titles and six CONCACAF Champions League titles (formally known as CONCACAF Champions Cup). The club motto is “Odiame Mas” or Hate Me More. Known historically as a team who’s willing to buy and spend no matter what when it comes to winning, whether they’re Mexican players or foreign players. They also make up one half of Mexico’s biggest rival with Chivas de Guadalajara, in what is known as "El Super Clásico”.

Club Atlas
Nickname: Los Zorros (The Foxes)
Location: Guadalajara, Jalisco
Stadium: Estadio Jalisco
Rivals: Chivas De Guadalajara

What you need to know: The second team in Mexico’s second city, Club Atlas is best known for only winning one title which happened in 1951, but having possibly the more loyal fan base in Mexico. They’re one half of Mexico’s oldest rivalry with Chivas de Guadalajara. The club is also known as one of the best academies in Mexico and has produced the last two main captains Mexico has had in Rafael Marquez and Andres Guardado.

Chiapas FC
Nicknames: Jaguares (Jaguars), Los Felinos (The Felines)
Location: Gutierrez, Chiapas
Stadium: Estadio Victor Manuel Reyna

What you need to know: The most southern club in Mexico, in the most southern state of Mexico in Chiapas. The only team in the first division who has yet to make a final. They are one of the least popular and forgotten teams in Mexico and usually a mid-table team. Head coach Ricardo LaVople is one of the most animated and well respected coaches in Mexico and lead Chiapas to a surprise fourth place finish last season to only lose to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs.

Cruz Azul
Nicknames: Lieres (Hares), La Maquina Azul (The Blue Machine), And Los Cementeros (The Cementers)
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Stadium: Estadio Azul
Rivals: Club America

What you need to know: One of Mexico’s “Big Four” and one of Mexico’s four most popular teams. Their main rival is fellow Mexican City club, Club America, in the rivalry that’s known as the “Clásico Joven” or “The Juvenile Classic”. Mexican media also like to hype up their matches with Pumas and Chivas as well. One of Mexico’s most winningest clubs with eight titles, but their last domestic title came in 1997. Since that time they’ve lost five finals. Head coach Tomas Boy is known for his attacking minded soccer, and outburst with opposing coaches, players, and media personal.

​ ​EFE - Ulises Ruiz Basurto

Chivas De Guadalajara
Nicknames: Las Chivas (Goats), Las Chivas Rayadas (The Stripped Goats), El Rebano Sangrado (The Sacred Herd)
Location: Guadalajara, Jalisco
Stadium: Estadio Omnilife
Rivals: Club America, Club Atlas

What you need to know: One of Mexico’s two most popular clubs and biggest clubs. They are second behind hated rival America for most titles at eleven. While they’ve won eleven only two have come in the last 25 years. Known for being the only club to field only Mexican players, they’ve produced some of Mexico’s best players including darling Javier Chicharito Hernandez. Part of Mexico’s national derby, El Super Clásico with Club America, and also part of Mexico’s oldest rival with Club Atlas in El Clásico Tapatio. They’re in the relegation battle entering this season as they sit third from the bottom of the relegation table.

Club Leon
Nicknames: Los Panzas Verdes (The green bellies), La Fiera (The wild beast), Los Esmeraldas (The Emeralds)
Location: Leon Guanajuato
Stadium: Estadio Nou Camp
Rivals Irapuato FC, Union De Curidores, Dorados De Sinaloa

What you need to know: One of Mexico’s most historic and successful clubs. They are winners of seven domestic titles including winning back to back championships in the Apertura 13 and Clausura 14. They also have had their downs including spending almost 10 years in the second division until winning promotion in 2012. Leon made the playoffs last season again, and will look to battle for another spot in the top eight of the table.

CF Monterrey
Nicknames: Los Rayados (The Striped Ones)
Location: Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
Stadium: Estadio BBVA Bancomer
Rivals: Tigres UANL

What you need to know: One of Mexico’s best ran clubs with one of Mexico’s most loyal fan bases. Winners of only four domestic titles, three have come in the last twelve years and they also won three straight CONCACAF Champions League titles from 2011-2013. They’re one half of El Clásico Regiomontano with fellow Monterrey club Tigres in one of the most heated rivalries in Mexico. In recent time it’s also been the best qualify of soccer. Antonio Mohamed, who has won titles with Tijuana and America, will have pressure on him this year to deliver on the bench for Monterrey as they missed the playoffs last year and hated rivals Tigres look to be winning everything in sight.

Monarcas Morelia
Nicknames: La Monarquia (The Monarchy), Los Canarios (The Canaries)
Location: Morelia, Michoacán
Stadium: Estadio Morelos

What you need to know: A one time champion in 2001, Morelia now finds themselves in a tricky position. They’re second from the bottom in the relegation table after numerous bad seasons in Liga MX. They do have one of the most powerful owners in Grupo Salinas, who also owns Atlas. The team has been set up to survive this season and stay in the top flight with many experienced and quality players, as well as head coach Enrique Meza, one of Mexico’s most successful and experienced coaches in all of Mexico.

Victor Decolongon - Getty Images North America

C.F. Pachuca
Nicknames: Los Tuzos (The Gophers)
Location: Pachuca Hidalgo
Stadium: Estadio Hidalgo

What you need to know: One of Mexico’s original clubs, Pachuca is one of Mexican soccer’s gems. In 2006, they became the first CONCACAF Club team to win a COMNEBOL club tournament when it won the Copa Sudamericana. Their last title came in 2007, and includes one of five league championships. In recent years, Pachuca has produced some of Mexico’s best young talent and is not afraid to throw out the young guns. They’re an exciting team and one to keep an eye on with players like Hugo Rodriguez, Rodolfo Pizarro, Hirving Lozano, and Erick Gutierrez.

Puebla F.C.
Nicknames: Los Camoteros (The Sweet Potatoers)
Location: Puebla, Puebla
Stadium: Estadio Cuauhtémoc
Rivals: Veracruz

What you need to know: A winner of only two titles, Puebla F.C. is the beloved pride of Puebla, Mexico. They play in the historic Cuauhtémoc Stadium. One of the smaller market teams in terms of spending and money, they’re performance in the table has lacked consistency and see themselves constantly in the relegation battle. Last season they finished in the top eight and in the playoffs. They also are fourth from the bottom of the relegation table. They also make up half of El Clásico Del Sur, or the Southern Clásico derby match with Veracruz.

Queretaro FC
Nicknames: Los Gallos Blancos (The White Roosters)
Location Queretaro, Queretaro
Stadium: Estadio La Corregidora
Rivals: Club Irapuato, Atletico San Luis

What you need to know: A team with one of the most loyal fan bases in Mexico, but that has had their struggle with relegation and money management that has seen the team dissolve and return more than a time or two. Now though, it looks like things have settled in Queretaro with a finals appearance in the Clausura a year ago and they have Victor Manuel Vecetich as the head coach. One of the cream of the crop Mexican coaches out there, and a team who’s in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Santos Laguna
Nicknames: Los Guerreros (The Warriors)
Location: Torreon, Coahuila
Stadium: Estadio Corona TSM
Rivals: Club Ciudad Juarez

What you need to know: Another one of Mexico’s better ran team in the last decade or so and one of their most recent successful teams as well. All five of their titles have come in the last twenty years including their last one a year ago. In the last six years they’ve also made it to three finals. The club has invested heavily in their new training grounds and youth products and has a very Euro style ran club. They also find themselves in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.


Dorados De Sinaloa
Nicknames: Los Dorados
Location: Culiacan, Sinaloa
Stadium: Estadio Banorte
Rivals: Club Leon

What you need to know: The newest team to join Liga MX after promotion a year ago. Now they only have 17 games to try and stay in the first division. Dorados does have some quality players who’ve been through the grind of top Mexican soccer like Luis Michael and Fernando Arce, but the club will need to take risks this coming season to try and come away with as many points as possible.

Club Tijuana
Nicknames: Los Xolos
Location: Tijuana, Baja California
Stadium: Estadio Caliente

What you need to know: A club that has seen success in unparalleled manners. Only founded in 2007, Tijuana has raised through the ranks from the goals of the ambitious owners. By 2011, Los Xolos had made the top flight of Mexican soccer. Within the year they won the 2012 Apertura and made it to the semifinals of the 2013 Copa Libertadores. After a changing of the guard, Tijuana are now under the guidance of Miguel Herrera. He is a charismatic coach who grew to world fame, while leading Mexico in the 2014 World Cup before getting fired a year later, for punching a journalist. It will be hard to predict what Tijuana will product this year, but with Herrera at least you know it will be entertaining.

Deportivo Toluca FC
Nicknames: Los Diablos Rojos (Red Devils)
Location: Toluca, Mexico
Stadium: Nemesio Diez

What you need to know: The kings of the short tournament, Toluca is third all-time with league titles with ten. Since Mexico switched to the two season a year format, Toluca have won seven of their ten titles. They also have finished runner up three times during that time as well. One of the smallest fan bases in Mexico, they’re also one of the most loyal and one of the more difficult away fixtures for anyone on their calendars with games played on Sunday at noon in the middle of the Mexican heat. Lead by club legend Jose Cardozo as their head coach, they finished second overall in the table last year and in the semifinals in the playoffs last season.

Tigres UANL
Nicknames: Tigres (Tigers), Felinos (Felines), Universitarios (The College Students)
Location: Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
Stadium: Estadio Universitario
Rivals: FC Monterrey

What you need to know: The official team of the public University of the state of Nuevo Leon, Los Tigres is one of the top teams in Mexico in how they’re run and in their recent success. Head coach Ricardo Ferretti is the longest tenured head coach in club soccer in Mexico. One of the most intimidating home field advantages in the Americas El Volcan (the nickname of El Estadio Universitario) is a yellow sea of crazy fans. They make up the other half of El Clásico with Monterrey for the people of Monterrey. They’re the defending champions and Copa Libertadores runner ups. They’re also favorites in the CONCACAF Champions league and have one of the best and deepest rosters. No one is hotter entering the season than Andre-Pierre Gignac, the French international who has adapted well to Mexico. All eyes will be on Tigres this season, as they should be.

EFE - Ulises Ruiz Basurto

UNAM Pumas
Nicknames: Los Pumas (The pumas), La Universidad (The University), Los Felinos (The Felines)
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Stadium: Estadio Olimpico Universitario
Rivals: Club America, Cruz Azul

What you need to know: The last of the four of Mexico’s “Big Four” Pumas is one of Mexico’s most popular teams. They also have one of the best youth developments in the country and are the team that produced legend Hugo Sanchez. Their main rival is Club America in what’s own as El Clásico Capitalino based on both teams playing in Mexico City. Last year they lost in heart breaking fashion to Tigres in penalties in the finals. being unable to add to their already seven domestic titles. There’s always pressure on them to perform and it will be interesting to see if they can repeat the success of last year.

Tiburones Rojos De Veracruz
Nicknames: Los Tiburones Rojos (The Red Sharks), Los Tiburones (The Sharks)
Location: Veracruz, Veracruz
Stadium: Estadio Luis “Pirata” Fuentes
Rivals: Puebla FC

What you need to know: The most eastern team in Mexico is found on the coastal town of Veracruz, in the state under the same name. In recent times Los Tiburones have seen themselves go from relegation to promotion. Also in 2011, Veracruz saw the team get disqualified from the second division after repeated failure of payment. In 2013, Club La Piedad was bought out and relocated to Veracruz and the team was brought back to the coastal city. Veracruz and Puebla have a rivalry known as El Clásico Del Sur. Over the last few seasons they’ve surprised the league by making the playoffs.

Keep following VAVEL USA all week for more on the lead up to the start of la Liga MX season.

Monday: An intro to Liga MX

About the author
Ivan Sanchez-Carrasco
Based out of Portland, Oregon, A first generation Mexican-American who writes about the Mexican National team, as well as opinion pieces on other soccer topics. Also check out my other writing as well.