While technically, the first game of the Clausura 2015 tournament took place on January 9th, for all intents and purposes the Mexican top division tournament began yesterday. After 153 regular season games (17 per team), eight teams will fight for the Mexican championship at almost equal conditions (higher-ranked teams get a very slight advantage; they advance with a tie, but away goals count more than standing).
This competition format, adopted in 1996, allows eight teams (out of eighteen) to remain in the race for the title, despite the fact that many have had less than stellar results during their regular season. This year, for example, only two teams had qualified with one game remaining in the season, and 10 others were still in position to qualify.
Many people say that this system rewards mediocrity, but the profitable play-offs bring the most money to the clubs. Others believe this shows how comparably competitive the league is, with no single team really dominating – as opposed to the biggest leagues in Europe, where there is usually a front-runner.
Whatever your stance on the tournament format is, there’s no denying that La Liga MX is…special.
Here are some reasons why we love La Liga MX.
With two champions per season, it’s no surprise that this tournament has had hella champions – 11 in the last nine years to be precise. Compare this to the 5 English Premier League champions since the league was established in 1992, and 3 champions total in the last 10 years of both La Liga (Spain) and the Italian Serie A.
Never being quite sure who will win is part of the fun.
Atlas lost their last match of the season against América, ending up in 4th place with a -1 goal score difference. If they’d won the game, they would have been Superlíderes (the #1 ranked team) with a 0 goal difference, meaning they scored as many goals as they received. Barcelona is +88, Juventus +45, Chelsea +42, Boca Juniors +15.
Meanwhile Tijuana, the team with the most goals in the tournament –30 – didn’t even make it to the play-offs after finishing in 11th place. Despite having tied once and lost 5 of their last six games, they made it to the last game of the season with only 1 point needed to qualify – but then lost 2-6 to León. Go figure.
Losers can be Winners
Several teams have become champions after barely making it to the play-offs. The most recent example is León, who won the Clausura 2014 championship after ending the regular season in 8th, only ahead of Chiapas and Monterrey by goal difference.
In the Apertura and Clausura seasons of 2004, Pumas won the championship two seasons in a row with legendary Mexican player Hugo Sánchez as head coach. His two championships were essential to his appointment as Head Coach of the Mexican National Team. But what many don’t remember is that when he won his 2nd championship, Pumas ended the regular season in 9th place (they qualified through Repechaje, which is essentially an extra play-off between the 8th and 9th placed teams) with a -6 goal difference.
The Curse of the Superlíder
While first-ranked teams have ended up winning the Championship, this is far from the norm in La Liga MX. Usually, the #1 team ends up losing, with the #8 team at play-offs. It happens so often it’s known as La Maldición del Superlíder.
If La Liga MX was like the rest...
If La Liga MX was like the top European leagues, this is how the 2014-2015 season would go down:
Champions: Tigres, 60 points, +16 goal difference.
2nd: America, 60 points, +13 goal difference
3rd: Atlas, 59 points, +1 goal difference
Relegation: Puebla (36pts), Leones Negros (35pts), Morelia (23pts).
Instead, this is what’s actually happening in La Liga MX this week:
Wednesday May 13th (All times are Eastern Times)
8pm: Santos vs Tigres
10pm: Pachuca vs America
Thursday May 14th
8pm: Queretaro vs Veracruz
10pm: Chivas vs Atlas
Saturday May 16th
6pm: America vs Pachuca
8pm: Tigres vs Santos
Sunday May 17th
7pm: Atlas vs Chivas
9pm: Veracruz vs Club Queretaro