The Liga MX is the Mexican top-flight football league and it was established in 1943 by the Mexican Football Federation (Federacion Mexicana de Futbol Asociacion) with 10 founding members.
It was initially known as the Liga Mayor (Major League), with six clubs from the Primera Fuerza (Mexican Amateur Soccer League Association) of Mexico City, two clubs from the Liga Occidental (Jalisco Western League), and two from the Liga Veracruzana (Veracruz Amateur League) coming together to establish professional club football in the country.
The Liga MX is one of the biggest leagues in both North and South Americas, and it is the most-followed and most-watched on both continents.
America, Asturias, Atlante, Veracruz, Necaxa, and Marte came from Primera Fuerza, Atlas and Guadalajara (Chivas) were from Liga Occidental De Jalisco, while ADO and Moctezuma came from Liga Amateur de Veracruz.
Club America and Chivas are the only two clubs that have never been relegated from the Mexican top-flight.
At the moment, 18 teams compete in the Liga MX and each campaign runs from July to May.
A single campaign is divided into two tournaments – the Apertura (opening) and the Clausura (closing).
The Apertura is held between July and December, while the Clausura takes place from January to May after a short mid-season break.
Liga MX’s most successful sides
- Club America are the most successful Liga MX side in history having bagged 13 league titles, while Guadalajara (Club Deportivo Guadalajara aka Chivas) have 12 titles to their name.
- Toluca (Club Deportivo Toluca) boast 10 titles, Cruz Azul have nine, Club Leon have gone home with the title eight times, while Tigres UANL and UNAM/Pumas both have seven titles under their belts.
- Pachuca and Santos Laguna have won the top-flight title six times, Monterrey have five titles, while the trio of Atlas – the reigning champions – Atlante and Necaxa boast three titles each.
- Puebla, Zacatepec and Veracruz have two titles each, with Tijuana, Asturias, Marte, Real Espana, Tecos, Tampico Madero, Morelia and Oro with a title apiece.
Famous players in Liga MX
Some famous players currently playing in the Liga MX include the likes of Guillermo Ochoa, Florian Thauvin, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Dani Alves, Joel Campbell and Vincent Janssen.
The league once boasted the likes of Hirving Lozano, Keisuke Honda, Ravel Morrison, Pep Guardiola, Rafael Marquez, Javier Hernandez aka Chicharito, Hugo Sanchez and Oswaldo Sanchez.
Liga MX format
The 18 Liga MX clubs play each other once in the regular season of the Apertura and Clausura, with each tournament being a round-robin competition and every side ending up playing at home and away – the same format employed by a majority of football leagues across the world.
However, at the end of each tournament, the first 12 teams in the league table advance to the Liguilla (play-offs), with the top-four teams in the table at the end of the regular phase of the tournament securing automatic qualifications for the quarter-finals.
The next eight sides (5th to 12th) qualify for the play-in round to determine who picks up the next four Liguilla (little league in English) spots.
The teams between fifth and twelfth play each other once in a mini-tournament (5th vs 12th, 6th vs 11th, 7th vs 10th and 8th vs 9th), and the four winners join the top-four in the quarter-finals.
In the first stage of the Liguilla, the quarterfinalists play home and away (With 1st vs winner of 6th vs 11th, 2nd vs winner of 8th vs 9th, 3rd vs winner of 7th vs 10th and 4th vs winner of 5th vs 12th)
The winners qualify for the semifinals and play home and away too, with the first two playing each other and the last two also squaring off. Should there be ties during the quarters and semis, away goals are used as the first tiebreaker, and the higher seeded team is the second tiebreaker. However, there are no tiebreakers in the finals, with the winner decided in extra time or penalty kicks after a stalemate in regulation time.
Liguilla started in 1996 and no Liga MX team have won more than two titles in a row since then.
Why are there two tournaments in Liga MX?
The Mexican top-flight is not the only league that employs the two-season format, with the split league also played in Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay.
Argentina, Japan and Korea used to play two tournaments in a season too but have all switched to the single-table format.
It is a financial booster as the two-season format generates more money for the Liga MX, with the excitement generated by it largely equating to bigger audiences and more sold tickets.
It can also be argued that the format keeps the title race very interesting every season, and it is the major reason why there has not been a consecutive league winner since its introduction.
Upsets are often common in the title race as teams that were not able to dominate the table during the season have very realistic chances of strongly challenging for a trophy during both play-offs.
Current Liga MX teams
- Atletico San Luis
- Cruz Azul
- Guadalajara (Chivas)
- Santos Laguna
- Tigres UANL
- Pumas UNAM
Relegation and Promotion from Liga MX
At the moment, relegation from and promotion to the Liga MX have been suspended.
In 2020, the Ascenso MX – the second division of the Mexican football league system – was folded due to the coronavirus pandemic and lack of finances.
Ascenso MX has since been replaced with the Liga de Expansion MX, but no club from the league will be promoted to the Liga MX and no Liga MX team will be relegated for the time being.
Prior to this suspension, a team relegates to the Ascenso MX and a team from the division earns promotion to the Liga MX at the end of the season – after the completion of the Apertura and Clausura tournaments.
However, should a promoted team fail to meet certain Liga MX requirements (stadium infrastructure, a youth team, etc) the relegated Liga MX team will be obligated to pay the prize money to the Ascenso MX team for winning the promotion playoff and both teams will keep their places in their respective divisions.
The prize money is expected to be used to fulfil necessary requirements for promotion within the next season.
Although, if the relegated Liga MX team cannot distribute the prize money to the promoted Ascenso MX team, both teams will lose their right to play in Liga MX and must play in Ascenso MX the following season.
Domestic Cups in Liga MX
Campeon de Campeones
At the end of every Apertura and Clausura tournament, the two winners play in the Campeon de Campeones (Champion of Champions) game in July.
Should in case a team win both tournaments, they are declared Campeonisimo for the campaign.
The Copa MX (Mexican Cup) is a cup competition played by Liga MX and Ascenso MX sides.
With the second division teams currently playing in the Liga de Expansion MX, Copa MX is now being played among teams from both divisions.
The winners of the Campeon de Campeones play the winners of the MLS (Major League Soccer) Cup, and it has been in existence since 2018 between both North American leagues.
CONCACAF Champions League
The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) host the yearly tournament, with the winners and runners-up of the Liga MX Apertura and Clausura tournaments qualifying for the Champions League.
Liga MX have a couple of approaches in place to ensure that two teams qualify from the Apertura section and two teams qualify from the Clausura section.
Should the same two sides play in the Apertura and Clausura finals, they qualify alongside the two sides who have the best record in the Apertura and Clausura respectively.
Should a side win both tournaments, facing two different sides in the finals, the spot reserved for the Clausura champions is given to the runners-up, while the place that was reserved for the Clausura runners-up goes to the team with the best Clausura record.
Should the Apertura runners-up emerge winners of the Clausura (playing different teams in the finals), the Apertura runners-up spot is awarded to the non-finalist team with the best Apertura record.
The same is applied if the Apertura champions are Clausura runners-up
Since it started in 1962, Liga MX clubs have bagged 36 CONCACAF Champions League titles, with Club America and Cruz Azul the most successful clubs in the competition’s history, with seven and six titles respectively.
The Leagues Cup is held between clubs from Major League Soccer and Liga MX, and from 2023, it will be contested by all MLS and Liga MX clubs during a month-long break in their respective campaigns.
Rivalries in Liga MX
Like every other league on the planet, rivalries are a big deal in the Liga MX, and there are a couple that always gets the fans on their toes.
Club America vs Pumas UNAM
The two are part of the traditional big teams in the division and are both based in Mexico City – the country’s capital – but they have different values.
While America are the financial heavyweights and giants, often fond of making money moves in the transfer markets, UNAM love to promote and grow youth talents.
Clasico Capitalinos are famous for the violence between both sets of fans.
Club America vs Cruz Azul
Both teams share the same stadium (Estadio Azteca), and that makes their age-long rivalry even more interesting.
Their rivalry started in the 1970s after Cruz Azul beat America in the final in 1972.
UANL Tigres vs Monterrey
Crosstown rivals from Nuevo Leon in Northern Mexico, Tigres and Monterrey represent two neighbouring cities, and when they clash, it is as fierce as they come, with bragging rights and city honour always at stake.
Their rivalry started during the 1970s and expectations on the pitch continue to be very high to this day.
Chivas vs. Atlas
The Jalisco-based duo have faced each other on the pitch for more than 100 years, making it the oldest derby in the Liga MX, and their clashes are mostly feisty.
The social classes of each team made their rivalry intense as Atlas were considered the rich club of Guadalajara while Chivas were seen as the poor team.
El Super Clasico
Chivas vs Club America
It is not as popular as the main El Clasico, but the clashes between these two Mexican giants give off Barcelona vs Real Madrid vibes and they have been happening since the 1960s.
Guadalajara and America are the top two in terms of success in the Liga MX. They are the country’s most largely supported sides and are the biggest rivals in the land. The clash of policies between the big money spenders (America) and a team with a tradition of fielding only Mexican players (Chivas) makes their rivalry even more interesting.
El Super Clasico is the highest TV-rated game in Mexico and it never fails to get high TV ratings in the United States, with tickets to the game selling out very fast.
It is one of the most anticipated games during the regular season, and it is not hard to see why.
If you want to know more about the biggest rivalry in Liga MX, check out this super informative video:
The 4 biggest teams in Liga MX
The Big Four (Los cuatro grandes) consists of America, Chivas, Pumas UNAM and Cruz Azul, and they are widely considered the most popular and successful sides in Mexican football.
With 41 Liga MX titles and 18 CONCACAF Champions Leagues between them, it is hard to argue that they are not.
Liga MX Records
Liga MX most appearances
|Juan Pablo Rodriguez||634|
Top 10 Liga MX goalscorers of all time
|Luis Roberto Alves||209|
|Carlos Eloir Perucci||199|