In attracting established talent while also sending up-and-coming talent abroad, Liga MX boasts a unique brand of futbol in North America.
Liga MX, Mexico’s top division, kicks off this Friday, July 21 as 18 clubs prepare to compete in what is the strongest league in North America.
For those new to Mexico’s domestic setup, here’s how it works:
The league is made up of two seasonal tournaments, consequently ending with two champions per full season–the Apertura, which runs July to December and the Clausura, which goes January to May.
By the end, the top eight teams qualify for the Liguilla for each respective tournament. By the conclusion of both Apertura and Clausura, one team gets relegated – this is done by a points-per-match-played ratio based on the last three seasons (or six tournaments.) Last season, Chiapas went down to Ascenso MX (the second division) despite beating Atlas 1-0, as fellow struggler Morelia won on the road against Monterrey. Chiapas ended the last three seasons with 117 points, one fewer than Morelia, who escaped just barely, thanks to a last minute goal by Peruvian striker and recent Player of the Year winner, Raúl Ruidíaz.
Promotion comes down to Ascenso MX’s winner from a two-leg match between its Apertura and Clausura champions. If a team wins both, it is automatically promoted.
Got it? Good, because now that you know the logistics, here is why you need to watch arguably the most exciting soccer in Latin America.
Due to its competitive nature and abundance in Latin American talent, Liga MX cultivates some of the best, under-the-radar players who are often scouted by European clubs. Just this summer, Guido Pizarro made his dream move to Sevilla from Tigres–and PSV bought the talented Chucky Lozano from Pachuca.
Pizarro is a hard-working defensive midfielder from Argentina, who spent four seasons with Tigres, and Lozano started his career with Pachuca’s youth set-up. Their stories are perfect examples of how Liga MX has played a big role in player development. Other notable players who have moved to Europe from the Mexican league include Hector Moreno–who just signed with Roma from PSV–and Hector Herrera, who signed with Porto in 2013, where after four years of making a name for himself in Portuguese soccer and in the Champions League, he now serves as the team’s captain.
This is a league with overwhelming depth and Europe is paying attention.
Liga MX, in addition to maintaining its competitive edge over MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League, is also an attractive destination for European and international players. French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac joined Tigres from Marseille two years ago, and he has since become the most prolific striker in the league. In two years, he has scored 53 goals in 81 matches.
Also, just last week, Japan’s Keisuke Honda signed with Pachuca as a free agent from AC Milan.
In the United States, Liga MX’s popularity grows year after year. In fact, Mexico’s top division beats out MLS, La Liga and even the all-powerful English Premier League in viewership, thanks to the monumental efforts by Univision and other networks who serve and appeal to the USA's Spanish-speaking audience.
Last season, Univision Deportes delivered its most-watched campaign ever, averaging 1.1 million viewers per match in the USA. The second-leg of the Clausura final between Chivas and Tigres reached nearly three million alone.
Along with the channel’s Facebook streaming deal, and the large Hispanic following on social, the league is in a perfect position to grow even further.