Liga MX has what can be though of as a confusing format, especially for North American sports fans who may not be familiar with the idea of a split season format.
Let’s dive into an explanation of the Liga MX season format starting Apertra and Clausera.
What are Apertura and Clausura?
The Mexican soccer league, La Liga MX, has two tournaments (the Apertura and Clausura) every season, each with its own playoffs (la liguilla).
Two champions are crowned each season.
It’s all a bit confusing to those new to Mexican soccer, and some Liga MX fans.
So, why does Liga MX use the Apertura and Clausura split-season format?
As with most things in sports, it’s about money.
How Does Liga MX Determine a Champion?
Since 1996, Mexico has used the split-season system, in different formats.
Originally Liga MX played the invierno (winter) and verano (summer) tournaments.
Now the league plays the Apertura (Opening) from July to December and the Clausura (Closing) from January to May.
You might be asking yourself, why does the closing tournament start at the beginning of the year? It’s because Liga MX is keeping in line with the FIFA calendar that starts in July and ends in May.
How Does Liga MX Work?
Liga MX has 18 teams.
During the Apertura the clubs all play 17 matches, facing every team once.
The top eight teams make la liguilla, the mini-league playoffs to determine the champion.
This repeats for the Clausura, only things are reversed so that every team plays home and away against every other team over the course of the full season.
Even though the idea of a split season may seem strange to North American sports fans, Liga MX isn’t the only league to split its season in two.
The format is popular in Central and South America, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay, just to name a few.
It’s in use in the United States as well, with the NASL switching to a split-season format in 2013. Additionally, some minor league baseball leagues in the U.S. split their seasons in half.
Argentina was the first country to adopt the format back in 1967, in part for weather concerns. At first, the break between the two halves of the season let teams avoid the heat of summer.
There was also another major reason – conforming to the season FIFA prefers, from July to May.
So back to the original questions:
Why does Liga MX use the Apertura and Clausura format?
Why crown two champions in one season?
Why not just play one long season?
The real reason is excitement because excitement means larger audiences and larger audiences mean more money.
While one long season would better determine a true champion, money will almost always win out over objectively determining a champion.
Liga MX is one of the most exciting football (soccer for you North Americans) leagues to watch in the world in terms of talent and style of play.
Only the Bundesliga and Premier League have larger average attendance figures among soccer leagues and in North America only the NFL and MLB draw more fans.
With shorter seasons, more is on the line in every match. It’s part of the reason an NFL regular-season game draws more TV viewers than the average MLB postseason game.
Plus, there are two playoffs every year, which is always fun. Imagine if there were two Super Bowls every year.
Fans would eat it up; advertisers would go nuts.
With Liga MX, they do both.
And if two Super Bowls aren’t enough, there’s a higher chance of seeing the big derbies more often. In Europe, the biggest rivalries are played twice per season with maybe another meeting or two in cup competitions.
In Mexico, it’s conceivable rivals could play each other six times before even considering cup tournaments.
There are some disadvantages to the split-season format, not the least of which is not crowning one true winner each season.
Championships are kind of the point of playing sports.
Since every match is so meaningful in a shorter season, it’s harder for managers to find playing time for younger or fringe players, decreasing player development across the board.
Plus, it’s confusing and people don’t like to be confused.
Liga MX has the champions of the Apertura and Clausura tournaments face off in the Campeon de Campeones matchup in July to determine one champion, but it doesn’t have the same level of intensity as the regular-season tournaments.
Starting in 2018 the Campeones Cup pits the Campeon de Campeones winner from Liga MX against the MLS Cup champion in September. That cross-ver appeal benefits both Liga MX and the MLS.
Fun Fact: Liga MX isn’t just the most popular league in Mexico; it’s the most-watched soccer league in the United States as well.
That’s a lot of eyes (and dollars) for the clubs and league. By using Apertura and Clausura to maximize intensity and entertainment Liga MX has built a continental powerhouse that’s unlikely to change.
Now you know why Liga MX has a split season.
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