La Liga MX - New Name, Same Entertainment

Players of Santos Laguna pose for a team photo. Santos is the current champion and beat Monterrey Rayados in the Clausura final. (Photo by Hans Maximo Musielik/Getty Images)

With this being my first post on Dynamo Theory, allow me to introduce myself and give you a quick background on the Ordinary Orange Fan. I've partnered up with Dynamo Theory and will provide you with a weekly look inside the Mexican soccer league, La Liga MX. I am a Dynamo season ticket holder and maintain a website covering the Dynamo at www.ordinaryorangefan.com. I also share a love for Mexican soccer and feel Dynamo Theory would be a great place to talk Liga MX and get Dynamo fans engaged on another great soccer league.

I’ll start by making sure Dynamo Theory followers truly understand the mechanics of La Liga MX. So here is a bit of history about the first division in Mexican soccer, where the league stands now, and how it finished its most recent season.

The league was established back in 1943, called Liga Mayor, and started with ten clubs. Since then it has gone through a number of changes and has grown substantially. In fact, the IFFHS ranks La Liga MX as the 10th best league of the last decade (2001-2010). That’s a huge endorsement about the quality of play over a long period of time. Just to compare, MLS is ranked 55th, behind leagues throughout Asia and Africa among others. Before the comments start lighting up about the Mexico/United States rivalry and which league is better, one has to take a step back and admire the consistent quality Mexico puts on the soccer field each and every year.

Currently, Liga MX consists of 18 teams spread over the country. What’s very different from MLS regarding the regular season is Mexico is divided into two short tournaments consisting of 17 weeks of play, rather than one long season. That means there are two champions crowned each year. The seasons are broken into the Apertura (meaning opening) and Clausura (meaning closing), and more or less follow the FIFA world footballing schedule. In recent years, teams were split in 3 groups, but in 2011 the league adopted one table with the top 8 clubs going to the playoffs (called liguilla). The playoffs have a similar format to MLS, with clubs playing a home and away match to determine the winner. However, if at the end of both matches the teams are tied on total goals, the winner is determined by who had a higher point total in the regular season table. No extra time or penalty kicks. I used to hate this rule (probably because my team has been on the lower end at times), but I’ve grown to love it. I feel it supports the theme that if a team wants to upset a higher seed, they have to win to do it. The final is also a home and away match, but naturally it will play into extra time and penalty kicks if needed to ensure a champion is crowned. One additional thing Mexico has that MLS is lacking is relegation. Each year (after Clausura) one team will be relegated to the second division based on their average points over the last three seasons.

Here’s a breakdown of each team, where they are located, and what they're called.

Team Location (City) Team Name/Nickname
America Mexico City Las Aguilas (The Eagles)
Atlante Cancun Los Potros de Hierro (The Iron Colts)
Atlas Guadalajara Los Zorros (The Foxes)
Guadalajara Guadalajara Las Chivas (The Goats)
Cruz Azul Mexico City La Maquina Azul (The Blue Machine)
Chiapas Tuxtla Gutierrez Los Jaguares (The Jaguars)
Leon Leon Panzas Verdes (Green Bellies)
Morelia Morelia Monarcas (Monarchs)
Monterrey Monterrey Los Rayados (The Striped Ones)
Pachuca Pachuca Los Tuzos (The Gophers)
Puebla Puebla La Franja (The Sash)
Queretaro Queretaro Los Gallos Blancos (The White Roosters)
San Luis San Luis Potosi Los Gladiadores (The Gladiators)
Santos Laguna Torreon Los Guerreros (The Warriors)
Tijuana Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles (Good luck trying to pronounce, it's an Aztec dog)
Toluca Toluca Los Diablos Rojos (The Red Devils)
Tigres U.A.N.L San Nicolas de los Garza Los Tigres (The Tigers)
Pumas U.N.A.M Mexico City Los Pumas (The Pumas)

Now let’s talk about the big teams and tell you a little more about the history of winning in Mexico. In all honesty, most teams have a solid chance to bring home the crown each year. In just the last four years, Mexico has seen six different champions. That makes for an exciting buildup to each season, but Mexico has its favorites too. Since the creation of the first division of Mexican soccer, here are the top five teams with most championships won.

Team Total Titles
Chivas de Guadalajara 11
Club America 10
Toluca 10
Cruz Azul 8
Pumas UNAM 7

Chivas de Guadalajara, Club America, Cruz Azul, and Pumas UNAM are referred to as "the big four" in reference to their fan popularity. Chivas and America may be two of the most popular clubs in the country and have the largest amount of championships overall, but both teams have struggled in recent years to get to the final. In fact, Chivas last won in 2006 and America in 2005. We've seen the likes of Pumas UNAM, Monterrey Rayados, Santos Laguna, and Pachuca winning more in the last several years.

Let’s talk about last season for a moment so you know where we stand going into the start of the Apertura 2012, which kicks off next month. Whether or not you watch Mexican soccer, you may have heard the hype over the championship that took place this past May. In the two leg final, Santos beat Monterrey 3-2 aggregate for their fourth title. It was the best match up a soccer fan could ask for, number one versus number two. Monterrey boasts two of the best strikers in Mexico in Humberto Suazo and Aldo de Nigris, while Santos matched them with Oribe Peralta and American Herculez Gomez. The game did not let down as Suazo, de Nigris, and Peralta all got on the board during the championship. Not only have Monterrey and Santos had success recently in Mexico, both have great showings in the CONCACAF Champions League, with Monterrey beating Santos in the 2011-2012 final.

While Santos were being crowned champions, at the end of the Clausura a team must fall as well. Estudiantes Tecos found themselves unable to keep their head above water as they were relegated for the first time in team history following a string of rough seasons. Leon found themselves celebrating a promotion back into the first division after being sent down back in 2002. Leon has five championships to their name, although they haven’t won a title since 1992.

At this point, I hope this information may help you understand our neighbors to the south. While so many American fans come to hate Mexican soccer, it’s a league that is detrimental to the growth of soccer in the United States. We can learn from a league that has shined with so much success and consistency over the years. We can support La Liga MX/MLS friendlies and we can talk Mexican soccer with fans on a regular basis. If MLS is to grow, the place it has to start is its FIFA governing body CONCACAF, which currently Mexico dominates.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be providing you with updates regarding Mexican soccer and insight on La Liga MX. I hope you’ll enjoy this addition to the Dynamo Theory website and spread the word about the Ordinary Orange Fan talking Mexican.

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