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.

History

Amateur era

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.

Professional era

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.

Founding members

Primera Fuerza: América, Asturias, Atlante, Necaxa, and Marte.
Liga Occidental De Jalisco: Atlas and Guadalajara.
Liga Amateur de Veracruz: ADO, Veracruz and Moctezuma.

Reformation

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).

Liga MX

Before the 2012–13 season, the organisation LIGA MX / ASCENSO MX was created to replace the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación, A.C. as the organizing body of the competition.

Competition format

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.

Playoffs (liguilla)

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.

Relegation

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).

Clubs

Champions

ClubWinnersRunners-upWinning years
América1281965–66, 1970–71, 1975–76, 1983–84, 1984–85, PRODE 85, 1987–88, 1988–89, Verano 2002, Clausura 2005, Clausura 2013, Apertura 2014
Guadalajara1191956–57, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1960–61, 1961–62, 1963–64, 1964–65, 1969–70, 1986–87, Verano 1997, Apertura 2006
Toluca1061966–67, 1967–68, 1974–75, Verano 1998, Verano 1999, Verano 2000, Apertura 2002, Apertura 2005, Apertura 2008, Bicentenario 2010
Cruz Azul8101968–69, México '70, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1973–74, 1978–79, 1979–80, Invierno 1997
UNAM771976–77, 1980–81, 1990–91, Clausura 2004, Apertura 2004, Clausura 2009, Clausura 2011
León751947–48, 1948–49, 1951–52, 1955–56, 1991–92, Apertura 2013, Clausura 2014
Pachuca63Invierno 1999, Invierno 2001, Apertura 2003, Clausura 2006, Clausura 2007, Clausura 2016
Santos Laguna55Invierno 1996, Verano 2001, Clausura 2008, Clausura 2012, Clausura 2015
UANL441977–78, 1981–82, Apertura 2011, Apertura 2015
Monterrey44México '86, Clausura 2003, Apertura 2009, Apertura 2010
Atlante341946–47, 1992–93, Apertura 2007
Necaxa331994–95, 1995–96, Invierno 1998
Puebla221982–83, 1989–90
Zacatepec211954–55, 1957–58
Veracruz201945–46, 1949–50
Oro †††151962–63
Morelia13Invierno 2000
Atlas131950–51
Tampico Madero121952–53
Tecos †††111993–94
Real España ††††111944–45
Tijuana10Apertura 2012
Asturias ††††101943–44
Marte ††††101953–54
U. de G.03
Querétaro01
Neza ††††01
Atlético Celaya ††††01
Atlético Español ††††01
San Luis ††††01

† Teams in the Ascenso MX
†† Teams in the Second Division
††† Teams in Amateur Levels
†††† Defunct

2016–17 season

The following 18 clubs will compete in the Liga MX during the 2016–17 season.

ClubPosition in
2015–16
First season in
top division
Seasons
in top division
First season of
current spell in
top division
Consecutive Seasons
in Liga MX
Top division
titles
Last top
division title
América3rd1943–44931943–449312Apertura 2014
Atlas17th1943–44891979–805511950/51
Chiapas14th2002–03252002–03250-
Cruz Azul12th1964–65711964–65718Invierno 1997
Guadalajara4th1943–44931943–449311Apertura 2006
León2nd1944–45682012–1357Clausura 2014
Monterrey1st1945–46771960–61754Apertura 2010
Morelia8th1957–58641981–82531Invierno 2000
Necaxa2nd in the Ascenso MX1951-52812016–1712Invierno 1998
Pachuca7th1967–68431998–99336Clausura 2016
Puebla10th1944–45722007–081521989/90
Querétaro13th1990–91212009–10110-
Santos Laguna11th1988–89451988–89455Clausura 2015
Tijuana16th2011–1272011–1271Apertura 2012
Toluca5th1953–54821953–548210Bicentenario 2010
UANL6th1974–75581997–98354Apertura 2015
UNAM9th1962–63731962–63737Clausura 2011
Veracruz15th1943–44522013–14321949/50

Sponsorship

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.

Media coverage

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

TeamMexico BroadcasterUnited States BroadcasterDayTime*
AméricaTelevisaUnivisionSaturday9:00 PM
AtlasTV Azteca / ESPN 2AztecaSaturday7:00 PM
ChiapasGrupo ImagenUnivisionSunday5:00 PM
Cruz AzulTelevisaUnivisionSaturday5:00 PM
GuadalajaraNone**UnivisionSaturday9:00 PM
LeónFox Sports / Claro SportsUnivisionSaturday7:06 PM
MonterreyTelevisaUnivisionSaturday7:00 PM
MoreliaTV AztecaAztecaSaturday7:00 PM
NecaxaTelevisaUnivisionSaturday9:00 PM
PachucaFox Sports / Claro SportsTelemundoSaturday7:06 PM
PueblaTV AztecaUnivisionSunday6:00 PM
QuerétaroGrupo ImagenUnivisionSaturday5:00 PM
Santos LagunaTV Azteca / ESPN 2UnivisionSunday6:00 PM
TijuanaTV AztecaAztecaFriday7:00 PM*
TolucaTelevisaUnivisionSunday12:00 PM
UANLTelevisaUnivisionSaturday7:00 PM
UNAMTelevisaUnivisionSunday12:00 PM
VeracruzTV AztecaAztecaFriday9:00 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

ClubLocationStadiumStadium capacityRef
AméricaTlalpan, Mexico CityAzteca84,000
AtlasGuadalajara, JaliscoJalisco54,500
ChiapasTuxtla Gutiérrez, ChiapasVíctor Manuel Reyna24,290
Cruz AzulBenito Juárez, Mexico CityAzul33,042
GuadalajaraGuadalajara, JaliscoChivas46,232
LeónLeón, GuanajuatoLeón31,297
MonterreyMonterrey, Nuevo LeónBBVA Bancomer53,500
MoreliaMorelia, MichoacánMorelos34,794
NecaxaAguascalientes City, AguascalientesVictoria23,933
PachucaPachuca, HidalgoHidalgo27,512
PueblaPuebla City, PueblaCuauhtémoc50,754
QuerétaroQuerétaro City, QuerétaroCorregidora34,045
Santos LagunaTorreón, CoahuilaCorona29,327
TijuanaTijuana, Baja CaliforniaCaliente27,333
TolucaToluca, State of MexicoNemesio Díez18,651
UANLSan Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo LeónUniversitario41,650
UNAMCoyoacán, Mexico CityOlímpico Universitario52,000
VeracruzVeracruz City, VeracruzLuis "Pirata" Fuente28,703

Managers

The current managers in the Liga MX are:

Nat.NameClubAppointedTime as manager
BrazilFerretti, RicardoRicardo FerrettiUANL20 May 20106 years, 101 days
UruguayAlonso, DiegoDiego AlonsoPachuca5 December 20141 year, 268 days
ArgentinaMohamed, AntonioAntonio MohamedMonterrey16 February 20151 year, 195 days
MexicoVucetich, Víctor ManuelVíctor Manuel VucetichQuerétaro23 February 20151 year, 188 days
MexicoMeza, EnriqueEnrique MezaMorelia21 May 20151 year, 100 days
MexicoAmbríz, IgnacioIgnacio AmbrízAmérica26 May 20151 year, 95 days
ArgentinaAlmeyda, MatíasMatías AlmeydaGuadalajara15 September 2015349 days
MexicoBoy, TomásTomás BoyCruz Azul2 October 2015332 days
MexicoHerrera, MiguelMiguel HerreraTijuana21 November 2015301 days
MexicoSosa, AlfonsoAlfonso SosaNecaxa26 November 2015277 days
MexicoTena, Luis FernandoLuis Fernando TenaLeón29 January 2016213 days
MexicoCruz, José GuadalupeJosé Guadalupe CruzAtlas9 May 2016112 days
ArgentinaMarini, PabloPablo MariniVeracruz16 May 2016105 days
MexicoPalencia, FranciscoFrancisco PalenciaUNAM30 May 201691 days
ArgentinaCristante, HernánHernán CristanteToluca31 May 201690 days
ParaguayCardozo, JoséJosé CardozoChiapas7 June 201683 days
ArgentinaValiño, RicardoRicardo ValiñoPuebla11 July 201649 days
Mexicode la Torre, José ManuelJosé Manuel de la TorreSantos Laguna17 August 201612 days

Player records

Most appearances

RankPlayerAppearances
1Mexico Oswaldo Sánchez725
2Mexico Benjamín Galindo700
3Mexico Óscar Pérez689
4Chile Rodrigo Ruiz638
5Mexico Adolfo Ríos635
6Mexico Juan Pablo Rodríguez634
7Mexico Miguel España631
8Mexico Alfonso Sosa610
9Mexico Cristóbal Ortega608
10Mexico Israel López604
Italics denotes players still playing professional football.
Bold denotes players still playing in the Liga MX.

Top scorers

RankNatNameYearsGoalsAppsRatio
1BrazilEvanivaldo Castro1974–19873124270.73
2MexicoCarlos Hermosillo1984–20012945390.55
3MexicoJared Borgetti1994–20102524750.53
4ParaguayJosé Cardozo1994–20052493320.75
5MexicoHoracio Casarín1936–19572383260.73
6ChileOsvaldo Castro1971–19842143980.54
7MexicoLuis Roberto Alves1986–20032095770.36
8MexicoAdalberto López1942–19552012310.87
9BrazilCarlos Eloir Perucci1972–19841993980.5
10MexicoSergio Lira1978–19961915640.34
Italics denotes players still playing professional football.
Bold denotes players still playing in the Liga MX.

Promotion and relegation

Relegation and Promotion by Club
ClubPromotionsRelegations
Zacatepec5 (1950–51, 1962–63, 1969–70, 1977–78, 1983–84)5 (1961–62, 1965–66, 1976–77, 1982–83, 1984–85)
Querétaro4 (México '86, 1989–90, 2005–06, 2009–10)3 (1993–94, 2006–07, 2012–13*)
Pachuca4 (1966–67, 1991–92, 1995–96, 1997–98)3 (1972–73, 1992–93, 1996–97)
Irapuato4 (1953–54, 1984–85, 1999–00*, 2002–03)2 (1971–72, 1990–91)
Atlas3 (1954–55, 1971–72, 1978–79)3 (1953–54, 1970–71, 1977–78)
San Luis3 (1970–71, 2001–02, 2004–05)2 (1973–74, 2002–03)
Puebla3 (1969–70, 1998–99, 2006–07)2 (1998–99, 2004–05)
Unión de Curtidores2 (1982–83, 1998–99*)2 (1980–81, 1983–84)
Veracruz2 (1963–64, 2001–02)4 (1951–52, 1978–79, 1997–98, 2007–08)
Real Zamora2 (1954–55, 1956–57)2 (1955–56, 1959–60)
Tampico Madero2 (1964–65, 1972–73)2 (1966–67, 1974–75)
Atlante2 (1976–77, 1990–91)3 (1975–76, 1989–90, 2013–14)
Monterrey2 (1955–56,1959–60)1 (1956–57)
Morelia2 (1956–57, 1980–81)1 (1967–68)
UANL2 (1973–74, 1996–97)1 (1995–96)
León2 (1989–90, 2011–12)2 (1986–87, 2001–02)
Sinaloa2 (2004–05, 2014–15)2 (2005–06, 2015-16)
La Piedad2 (2000–01, 2012–13*)-
Necaxa2 (2009–10, 2015-16)2 (2008–09, 2010–11)
UAT1 (1986–87)1 (1994–95)
Atlético Potosino1 (1974–75)1 (1988–89)
Ciudad Juárez1 (2007–08)1 (2009–10)
Neza1 (1988–89)1 (1999–00)
Tecos1 (1974–75)1 (2011–12)
Tijuana1 (2010–11)-
U. de G.1 (2013-2014)1 (2014-2015)
Oro-1(1979–80)

Notes: