How Liga Mx works?
Liga Mx (Mx League) is complex. No, Liga Mx is very complex. So read carefully if you wish to understand.
The league currently has 19 teams, although it has recently started an expansion project which saw them add a team this season and which most probably will see them add a 20th team before long. The league has 4 important aspects to be discussed in today’s article:
1.- Short Season format
2.- The “liguilla” (or playoff)
3.- Continental Qualification
1.- Short Season Format
The first curiosity Liga MX has to offer is the format. Contrary to european leagues, where seasons go from the last days of August to the last days of May, in Mexico every year two seasons are played, the Clausura (Closure) and Apertura (Opening ) seasons are played from January to May and from July to December, respectively (yes the names seem out of place to me too).
Both are what’s called a Torneo Corto (or Short Tournament) and each has its own champion. Therefore, Liga Mx has a new titleholder every 6 months or so. The champions of the Clausura and Apertura of each year, play each other in a recently created and mostly insignificant, Campeón de Campeones (which roughly translates to Champions among Champions).
As a side note, and also following the Short Season format, we have Copa MX. Copa Mx is a Interdivisional cup which faces First and Second Division teams against each other. First Division teams which qualify for international competitions (more on that later) and the worst positioned Second Division teams. The Cup is played in a group format which then turns into knockout rounds. The winner then plays an also recent and also insignificant Super Cup, against the winner of the corresponding Torneo Corto.
Coming back to the league format, each team plays each other once. Since the number of teams is uneven, every team has a bye week. Teams play 9 home games and 9 away games each tournament, which next season alternate. The point system is normal, with three points for each win, 1 point for each draw and 0 per defeat. Contrary to the Second Division (Ascenso Mx) where 4 points are awarded for an away win, 3 for a home win, 1 for a tie, and 0 for a defeat.
The teams play 18 games in total for the regular season. I say regular season since the top 8 teams at the end of the 18 games, qualify to the Playoff round, known in Mexico as the Liguilla (“little league”). Hold tight because things, will start to get complicated.
2.- La Liguilla (The Little League)
As I was just saying the top 8 teams after the end of the regular season qualify to what we call the Liguilla. These 8 teams will have to battle against each other to progress all the way to the final. Depending on their league position the teams get sorted. The team placed 1st at the end of the regular season will play the 8th team, the 2nd will play the 7th, the 3th will play the 6th, and the 4th will play the 5th. Then, the Semifinals will depend on the winner of the 1st vs 8th, who will play the winner of the 2nd vs 7th, the other semifinal is between the remaining of the teams. The winners will naturally play the Final. That’s the essence of the Liguilla, but let’s analyze its format in depth:
Each encounter from the Quarter finals all the way to the Final, consists of two legs, with the highest ranked team playing at home for the closing match. In case of a draw, the first tie breaker is the Away goals scored. In case both scores are the same, and hence both away goals, the next sorting criteria will be position on the regular season, with the higher placed team going through. So, there’s no place for penalties neither in the QF nor in the SF. The Final is a slightly different story since the two aforementioned criterion do not apply. If the Grand Finale finishes in a global draw after 180 minutes, regardless of goals scored and position of each team, the teams will have to play an Extra Time and, if necessary, penalties.
3.- Continental Qualification
Mexico is situated in North America (hope you already knew that) and hence its part of CONCACAF. Said confederation hosts the CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) every year, in which teams from Mexico, USA, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and other North American/Caribbean countries participate.
As a quick fact, Mexico has always dominated North American soccer and the CCC is no exception. Let’s have a look at the Overall performances by club and by country, and well see Mexico comes out on top of them both:
So, who qualifies for the CCC?
The winners and runner-ups of both Clausura and Apertura, which subsequently loose the chance to play that year’s Copa MX.
Now in FMM2020 if Liga Mx were to be added, winning the CCC would be fairly easy with most Mexican teams. However, after winning the CCC, you’ll qualify for the Club’s World Championship, which regardless of the countless times Mexico has been represented at said tournament, no Mexican team has ever been crowned as World Champions. There’s a nice challenge for you.
Here’s where things will get very complicated. Contrary to other leagues around the world where the teams placed at the bottom of the leagues get relegated to the second division, in Mexico you could finish bottom place of both Clausura and Apertura, and still play in the Top Flight the following season. How does that work? Let me try to explain.
Each 12 months, after one Clausura and Apertura are played, the team placed last in the Quotient tables is relegated and one team is promoted from the Ascenso Mx. But what’s the Quotient table?
The Quotient table is a table which ranks the teams by their points-per-game-played ratio from the last 6 tournaments (3 years). What this means is that the points a team obtains in the last 6 tournaments as divided by the games that teams plays to give us a quotient or ratio, usually between 0 and 2, with which the teams are ranked. A higher ratio means a better performing team. As for teams recently promoted, they play less game (only 2 or 4 seasons) and therefore they have a highly volatile Quotient which can play for or against them. After 12 months the team placed last in this table goes down the leagues. Or at least that’s what supposed to happen. Let’s look at some exceptions:
Relegated team pays fee:
Let’s say Team A finishes last of the Quotient Table for the 2019 year, according to the rulebook they should go down and from now on play in Ascenso MX, but there’s certain conditions and a certain fee which might help them keep afloat in the First Division, these are the 2 cases:
To improve competitiveness and rentability of promoted teams, the Mexican FA has implemented certain criteria that Ascenso MX teams have to fulfill in order to be allowed to play in Liga MX. even if they come out winners of the promotion pass (more on that later), the teams most have certain stadium capacity, certain economic capital, certain youth systems and a female squad, in order to qualify for promotion. In case they don’t fulfill any of these, the “relegated” team has the chance to pay the money equivalent to the Ascenso MX prize to the “promoted” team, in order to remain in First Division. The amount to cash in is of around 6 million USD. If the team is unable to pay and/or unwilling to do so, they are relegated and the Liga MX looses a team for the next 12 months. This tactic was implemented in 2017 by the now disappeared Lobos BUAP to remain afloat.
Now, if the team which wins the promotion playoff, does qualify to play in the Top Flight, then they will automatically win promotion. If however, the league hasn’t reached it’s 20 team limit by then, the “relegated” team will have the chance to pay the 6 million USD quota and stay up. This can be done until the limit of 20 teams is reached, by then, “relegated” teams will have no chance to pay their fee.
2. The relegated team buys the promoted franchise:
This has only happened a couple of times, and the concept is simple. The relegated team bids to try and buy the promoted franchise, and if they manage to do so, they remain in the First Division.
3. The relegated team buys a First Division franchise:
This might have also happened once or twice.The case is the recently relegated team, buys a struggling first division team and that way manages to play 2 more seasons playing in the Top flight.
I don’t want to get much into this topic since the probability of Liga MX being added to FM20 is relatively small, and therefore the probability of the addition of Ascenso MX is close to 0.0%. However I do feel it is important to mention how promotion works. The idea is simple, Ascenso MX teams play 2 Short Tournaments per year, in which the top 7 teams qualify for a Liguilla with a similar format to that mentioned above (won’t get into too much detail here), the winner of the Liguilla then qualifies for the Promotion Final which they play against the winner of the other Short Tournament’s Liguilla. If the winner of both Short Tournaments is the same, then that team is promoted if it fulfills the conditions mentioned above (topic 4, subtopic 1). If the team doesn’t fulfill the requirements then there is no promotion that year.
Since the Mexican franchise rules is a joke, a team from Second Division might buy a First Division franchise (Juarez bought struggling Lobos this year) and get to play in the First Division for the next 2 seasons. This doesn’t rule out the promotion won on the field, and therefore there could be a double promotion that year.
Liga Mx is a mess, but nevertheless a very fun league to watch and try to understand.
This is the first post of a 6 post series. If you liked it and appreciate the work put into it, please leave a like.
Thank you, and until next post.
Meanwhile enjoy Mexican trainer Tomas Boy having a dance: