The Liga MX (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈliɣa ˈeme ˈekis]) is the top level of the Mexican football league system. It is currently sponsored by BBVA through its Mexican subsidiary BBVA Bancomer, and thus officially known as Liga BBVA Bancomer.
Each season the league holds two tournaments; the Apertura, which starts in the summer, and the Clausura, which starts in the winter. As of 2012, the league comprises 18 clubs, with one being relegated every year (two tournaments) based upon their performance in the league over the previous three years. The first 8 teams in the table at the end of the regular phase of the tournament qualify to the liguilla ("mini-league", or "playoff"). Up until July 2011, the league was divided into 3 groups. The group formatting was removed in favor of a single-table format.
The league is considered the strongest in North America, and among the strongest in all of Latin America. According to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, the league currently ranks 20th worldwide and was ranked as the 10th strongest league in the first decade of the 21st century (2001–2010). According to CONCACAF, the league – with an average attendance of 25,557 during the 2014–15 season – draws the largest crowds on average of any soccer league in North America and the fourth largest crowds of any professional sports league in North America, behind only the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the Canadian Football League.
Of the 56 teams to have competed in the league, América have won the title a record 12 times, followed by Guadalajara (11), Toluca (10), Cruz Azul (8), León and Pumas UNAM (7), and Pachuca (6). The current league champions are Pachuca, who won the Clausura 2016 tournament.
Prior to the Liga Mayor, there was no national football league in Mexico, and football competitions were held within relatively small geographical regions. The winners of the Primera Fuerza, a local league consisting of teams near and around Mexico City, was considered the national competition. There were other regional leagues such as the Liga Amateur de Veracruz, the Liga Occidental De Jalisco and the Liga del Bajío that also had notable clubs. Many club owners were not keen on the idea of establishing a professional league, despite paying players under the table. With the increasing demand for football, there was a sense of urgency to unite all the local amateur leagues in Mexico to progress as a football nation. The professional national league was finally established in 1943.
When the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación (F.M.F.) announced the formation of the nation's first professional league, many clubs petitioned to join. The F.M.F. announced that 10 clubs would form the Liga Mayor (Major League). The league was founded by six clubs from the Primera Fuerza of Mexico City, two clubs from the Liga Occidental, and two from the Liga Veracruzana.
- Primera Fuerza: América, Asturias, Atlante, Necaxa, and Marte.
- Liga Occidental De Jalisco: Atlas and Guadalajara.
- Liga Amateur de Veracruz: ADO, Veracruz and Moctezuma.
Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, many small clubs faced economic difficulties which were attributed to the lack of international competition by Mexico's clubs and an unrewarding league format. Like many South American and European clubs, Mexico's clubs that placed high in the league standings could not afford to participate in prestigious international tournaments, such as the Copa Libertadores.
The Mexican league boom
The 1970 World Cup held in Mexico was the first World Cup televised on a grand scale. The season following the FIFA World Cup, the F.M.F. changed the league format and established a playoff phase to determine the national champion. This was done to regenerate interest and reward teams that placed fairly high in the standings.
The play-off, called the Liguilla, was played using various formats to determine the champion. The most common format was a straight knock-out between the top eight teams in the table. At other times the league was divided into groups with the top two in each group, often as well as the best 3rd placed teams, qualifying for the play-offs and in some seasons the play-offs themselves involved teams playing in groups with the group winners playing off for the title.. The format was changed from season to season to accommodate international club commitments and the schedule of the Mexico national team.
The change in the rules affected teams that traditionally dominated the table, as talented teams that had not performed well in the regular season were able to perform successfully in the play-offs (Cruz Azul in the 1970s, América in the 1980s, and Toluca in the 2000s).
Regular season tournaments
From 1996 to 2002, the league followed a two-tournament schedule with invierno (winter) and verano (summer) tournaments but from 2002 to 2011 the 18 teams were divided into three groups of six with the top two teams from each group and the two best third place teams qualified for the liguilla. The teams played in the same group for each tournament. The qualification phase of the tournament lasted 17 weeks, with all teams playing each other once per tournament in a home and away series over both tournaments.
Liga MX uses a single table of 18 teams that play two annual tournaments resulting in two champions per season. The season opens with the apertura tournament (opening tournament- running from July to December) followed by the clausura (closing - running from January to May). This format matches other Latin American schedules and correspond with FIFA's world footballing calendar, which "opens" in July/August and "closes" in April/May of the next year. the top eight teams progress to the liguilla for each tournament.
The liguilla (Spanish for "little league") is the play-off phase of the tournament. This phase starts with eight qualifying teams playing two-legged ties with the winner on aggregate-score progressing. The Champion team is awarded the First division trophy, and the runner up is awarded a smaller version of the trophy. The birth of La liguilla in 1970 modernized the league despite the disagreements between the traditionalists and the modernists. Clubs that were near bankruptcy were now better able to compete and generate profits.
At the end of a season, after the Apertura and Clausura tournaments, one team is relegated to the next lower division, Ascenso MX, and one team from that division is promoted and takes the place left open by the relegated team. Currently, the relegated team is determined by computing the points-per-game-played ratio for each team, considering all the games played by the team during the last three seasons (six tournaments). The team with the lowest ratio is relegated. For teams recently promoted, only the games played since their promotion are considered (two or four tournaments). The team promoted from Ascenso MX is the winner of a two-leg match between the champions of the Apertura and Clausura tournaments of that division. If a team becomes the champion in both tournaments, it is automatically promoted.
CONCACAF Champions League Qualification
Each year, four teams from Liga MX qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League, the premier North American club competition. Generally, the Apertura and Clausura champions and the Apertura and Clausura runners-up qualify, and are placed in Pot 3. Should one or more teams reach the finals of both tournaments, Liga MX has implemented a formula for ensuring that both pots have one team that qualifies via the Apertura and one team that qualifies via the Clausura:
- If the same two teams qualify for the finals of both tournaments, those two teams will qualify along with the non-finalists with the best record in both the Apertura and Clausura.
- If the same team wins both the Apertura and the Clausura (facing two different teams in the finals of each tournament), then the berth reserved for the Clausura champions is passed to the Clausura runners-up and the berth reserved for the Clausura runners-up is passed to the non-finalists with best record in the Clausura. This occurred most recently in the 2013–14 season (2014–15 CONCACAF Champions League) when León (2013 Apertura and 2014 Clausura champions) and Pachuca (2014 Clausura runners-up) were placed in Pot A, while América (2013 Apertura runners-up) and Cruz Azul (non-finalists with the best record in the 2014 Clausura) were placed in Pot B (at the time, the champions and runners-up were placed in different pots).
- If the Apertura runners-up win the Clausura (facing two different teams in the finals of each tournament), then the berth reserved for the Apertura runners-up is passed to the non-finalists with best record in the Apertura. This occurred most recently in the 2011–12 season (2012–13 CONCACAF Champions League) when UANL (2011 Apertura champions) and Santos Laguna (2011 Apertura runners-up and 2012 Clausura champions) were placed in Pot A, while Guadalajara (non-finalists with the best record in the 2011 Apertura) and Monterrey (2012 Clausura runners-up) were placed in Pot B (again, at the time, the champions and runners-up were placed in different pots).
Previous Qualification Tournaments
Campeonato Centroamericano (1959), Copa Interamericana (1968-91), CONCACAF Cup Winners Cup (1991-98), CONCACAF Giants Cup 2001, Interliga (2004-10), Copa Sudamericana (2005-08), and SuperLiga (2007-10).
The following 18 clubs will compete in the Liga MX during the 2016–17 season.
|First season in|
in top division
|First season of|
current spell in
in Liga MX
|Cruz Azul||12th||1964–65||71||1964–65||71||8||Invierno 1997|
|Necaxa||2nd in the Ascenso MX||1951-52||81||2016–17||1||2||Invierno 1998|
|Santos Laguna||11th||1988–89||45||1988–89||45||5||Clausura 2015|
Up until it's re-branding in 2012, the Liga MX did not have a title sponsor. In July 2013, league president Decio de María announced BBVA Bancomer as the official sponsor, with the goal of modernizing the league's image. De María also stated that the money generated from the sponsorship would be divided among the eighteen clubs and to be invested in each club's youth teams. On 18 September 2015, it was announced that the sponsorship deal was extended until 2019.
Since 1986, Voit has been the official match ball manufacturer. In 2014, the contract was extended for four years.
In theory, all First Division clubs have the right to sell their own broadcast rights. In practice, however, the league is divided between teams broadcast on Televisa, TV Azteca, Fox Sports, ESPN and TVC Deportes in México versus those broadcast on ESPN Deportes, Telemundo, and Univision in the United States. ESPN also owns English broadcast rights in the United States.
In previous years, when a team got relegated, the team that got promoted could only negotiate with the company that had the television rights of the team that got relegated. This agreement was cancelled in 2012 by the Liga MX when the promotion of Club León caused a television rights dispute with Televisa. Currently, Club León matches are broadcast in Mexico by Fox Sports and other online media sites, and in the United States by Telemundo.
On July 17, 2015 Dorados de Sinaloa announced a TV broadcast partnership with TVC Deportes. TVC is to air Sinaloa's 2015-2016 season home matches.
Telelatino and Fox Sports World hold broadcasting rights in Canada; Fox Sports is the only network that holds rights to broadcast selected matches in United States and South America. Additionally, Televisa-owned networks Sky Sports and TDN hold exclusive broadcasting rights over selected matches throughout the regular season, although the majority of the most important ones are broadcast live on the national networks.
Most of the Saturday afternoon and evening matches broadcast by Televisa are shown primarily on Gala TV, though Saturday games played by Televisa's club America, are broadcast on Televisa's flagship network, Canal de las Estrellas. However, a blackout policy is usually applied in selected markets where affiliates are forced to air alternate programming during the matches, Sunday noon and afternoon games broadcast by Televisa are shown on Canal de las Estrellas. All of the games broadcast by TV Azteca on Saturday and Sunday are shown on Azteca 13; Friday's matches however are shown on Azteca 7. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (known in Mexico as Fecha Doble or Double Date) matches picked by the national networks are shown on Canal 5 and Azteca 7 and the rest of the matches air on Sky Sports and TDN.
A recent rule, in effect since 2011, requires teams to play the final game of every season on Sunday during prime time, regardless of whether the team used to play local games in another timeslot, in order to capture more television audience during the game.
In the United States, Univision holds the rights to the home games of América, Chiapas, Cruz Azul, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Querétaro, Toluca, UANL, UNAM and Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz. Azteca airs Atlas, Monarcas Morelia, Santos Laguna, and Tijuana home games. Telemundo has Pachuca and León home games. ESPN Deportes and Estrella TV shows Dorados de Sinaloa home matches.
Television Home matches broadcast rights
|Team||Mexico Broadcaster||United States Broadcaster||Day||Time*|
|Atlas||TV Azteca / ESPN 2||Azteca||Saturday||7:00 PM|
|Chiapas||Grupo Imagen||Univision||Sunday||5:00 PM|
|Cruz Azul||Televisa||Univision||Saturday||5:00 PM|
|León||Fox Sports / Claro Sports||Univision||Saturday||7:06 PM|
|Morelia||TV Azteca||Azteca||Saturday||7:00 PM|
|Pachuca||Fox Sports / Claro Sports||Telemundo||Saturday||7:06 PM|
|Puebla||TV Azteca||Univision||Sunday||6:00 PM|
|Querétaro||Grupo Imagen||Univision||Saturday||5:00 PM|
|Santos Laguna||TV Azteca / ESPN 2||Univision||Sunday||6:00 PM|
|Tijuana||TV Azteca||Azteca||Friday||7:00 PM*|
|Veracruz||TV Azteca||Azteca||Friday||9:00 PM|
- (*) All match times are UTC−06:00 except for matches in Tijuana (UTC−08:00).
- (**) As of June 29, 2016 Guadalajara home matches in Mexico will not be broadcast to open television including cable and satellite operators, instead these will be broadcast on an internet streaming service called Chivas TV.
Stadiums and locations
|América||Tlalpan, Mexico City||Azteca||84,000|
|Chiapas||Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas||Víctor Manuel Reyna||24,290|
|Cruz Azul||Benito Juárez, Mexico City||Azul||33,042|
|Monterrey||Monterrey, Nuevo León||BBVA Bancomer||53,500|
|Necaxa||Aguascalientes City, Aguascalientes||Victoria||23,933|
|Puebla||Puebla City, Puebla||Cuauhtémoc||50,754|
|Querétaro||Querétaro City, Querétaro||Corregidora||34,045|
|Santos Laguna||Torreón, Coahuila||Corona||29,327|
|Tijuana||Tijuana, Baja California||Caliente||27,333|
|Toluca||Toluca, State of Mexico||Nemesio Díez||18,651|
|UANL||San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León||Universitario||41,650|
|UNAM||Coyoacán, Mexico City||Olímpico Universitario||52,000|
|Veracruz||Veracruz City, Veracruz||Luis "Pirata" Fuente||28,703|
The current managers in the Liga MX are:
|Nat.||Name||Club||Appointed||Time as manager|
|Ferretti, RicardoRicardo Ferretti||UANL||20 May 2010||6 years, 101 days|
|Alonso, DiegoDiego Alonso||Pachuca||5 December 2014||1 year, 268 days|
|Mohamed, AntonioAntonio Mohamed||Monterrey||16 February 2015||1 year, 195 days|
|Vucetich, Víctor ManuelVíctor Manuel Vucetich||Querétaro||23 February 2015||1 year, 188 days|
|Meza, EnriqueEnrique Meza||Morelia||21 May 2015||1 year, 100 days|
|Ambríz, IgnacioIgnacio Ambríz||América||26 May 2015||1 year, 95 days|
|Almeyda, MatíasMatías Almeyda||Guadalajara||15 September 2015||349 days|
|Boy, TomásTomás Boy||Cruz Azul||2 October 2015||332 days|
|Herrera, MiguelMiguel Herrera||Tijuana||21 November 2015||301 days|
|Sosa, AlfonsoAlfonso Sosa||Necaxa||26 November 2015||277 days|
|Tena, Luis FernandoLuis Fernando Tena||León||29 January 2016||213 days|
|Cruz, José GuadalupeJosé Guadalupe Cruz||Atlas||9 May 2016||112 days|
|Marini, PabloPablo Marini||Veracruz||16 May 2016||105 days|
|Palencia, FranciscoFrancisco Palencia||UNAM||30 May 2016||91 days|
|Cristante, HernánHernán Cristante||Toluca||31 May 2016||90 days|
|Cardozo, JoséJosé Cardozo||Chiapas||7 June 2016||83 days|
|Valiño, RicardoRicardo Valiño||Puebla||11 July 2016||49 days|
|de la Torre, José ManuelJosé Manuel de la Torre||Santos Laguna||17 August 2016||12 days|
|6||Juan Pablo Rodríguez||634|
|Italics denotes players still playing professional football.|
Bold denotes players still playing in the Liga MX.
|7||Luis Roberto Alves||1986–2003||209||577||0.36|
|9||Carlos Eloir Perucci||1972–1984||199||398||0.5|
|Italics denotes players still playing professional football.|
Bold denotes players still playing in the Liga MX.
Promotion and relegation
|Zacatepec||5 (1950–51, 1962–63, 1969–70, 1977–78, 1983–84)||5 (1961–62, 1965–66, 1976–77, 1982–83, 1984–85)|
|Querétaro||4 (México '86, 1989–90, 2005–06, 2009–10)||3 (1993–94, 2006–07, 2012–13*)|
|Pachuca||4 (1966–67, 1991–92, 1995–96, 1997–98)||3 (1972–73, 1992–93, 1996–97)|
|Irapuato||4 (1953–54, 1984–85, 1999–00*, 2002–03)||2 (1971–72, 1990–91)|
|Atlas||3 (1954–55, 1971–72, 1978–79)||3 (1953–54, 1970–71, 1977–78)|
|San Luis||3 (1970–71, 2001–02, 2004–05)||2 (1973–74, 2002–03)|
|Puebla||3 (1969–70, 1998–99, 2006–07)||2 (1998–99, 2004–05)|
|Unión de Curtidores||2 (1982–83, 1998–99*)||2 (1980–81, 1983–84)|
|Veracruz||2 (1963–64, 2001–02)||4 (1951–52, 1978–79, 1997–98, 2007–08)|
|Real Zamora||2 (1954–55, 1956–57)||2 (1955–56, 1959–60)|
|Tampico Madero||2 (1964–65, 1972–73)||2 (1966–67, 1974–75)|
|Atlante||2 (1976–77, 1990–91)||3 (1975–76, 1989–90, 2013–14)|
|Monterrey||2 (1955–56,1959–60)||1 (1956–57)|
|Morelia||2 (1956–57, 1980–81)||1 (1967–68)|
|UANL||2 (1973–74, 1996–97)||1 (1995–96)|
|León||2 (1989–90, 2011–12)||2 (1986–87, 2001–02)|
|Sinaloa||2 (2004–05, 2014–15)||2 (2005–06, 2015-16)|
|La Piedad||2 (2000–01, 2012–13*)||-|
|Necaxa||2 (2009–10, 2015-16)||2 (2008–09, 2010–11)|
|UAT||1 (1986–87)||1 (1994–95)|
|Atlético Potosino||1 (1974–75)||1 (1988–89)|
|Ciudad Juárez||1 (2007–08)||1 (2009–10)|
|Neza||1 (1988–89)||1 (1999–00)|
|Tecos||1 (1974–75)||1 (2011–12)|
|U. de G.||1 (2013-2014)||1 (2014-2015)|
- 1976–77: Tampico Madero bought San Luis's spot in first division
- 1977–78: Deportivo Neza is bought Laguna and took its spot.
- 1981–82: Tampico Madero bought Atletas Campesinos and took over its spot
- 1983–84: Ángeles bought Oaxtepec and took over its spot
- 1988–89: Veracruz bought Potros Neza and took over its spot
- 1992–93: U.T. Neza changes its name to Toros Neza
- 1998–99: Puebla bought Unión de Curtidores and took over its spot
- 1999–00: Irapuato gained automatic promotion as they won both tournaments.
- 2012–13: Chiapas relocated to Querétaro rebranding to Querétaro
- 2012–13: Veracruz bought La Piedad's spot in first division