How The Liga MX Works: Points System, Playoffs, Relegation & More (Tijuana Xolos)

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Credit: LIGA MX


Recently, East Village Times has started covering the beloved Mexican soccer team from across the border, the Tijuana Xolos.

There may be many new fans to the Liga MX, or to the sport in general, who may not know a thing about how the Mexican Soccer League functions. If that is true, then this article is for you.

Here is a rundown of all the basics you need to know.

The Teams

There are 18 teams in the Liga MX, spread all across Mexico, from Tijuana to Chiapas. Mexico City has the biggest presence in the league, with three teams hailing from the capital city in Club America, Cruz Azul and Pumas UNAM. There are a select group of teams known as the ‘big four’ because they have a national fan base throughout Mexico. Three of the ‘big four’ do hail from Mexico City in Club America, Cruz Azul, and Pumas UNAM.

The other member of this select group of teams hails from Guadalajara, in Chivas de Guadalajara. These are the most popular teams in the country. You can compare their fan base to American sports teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and the Dallas Cowboys. Other teams hold strong regional support like the case of the Tijuana Xolos, who sell out almost every home game. Club America is the most popular team in the country, but it is also the most hated team in the country, somewhat like the New York Yankees in MLB. Club America is also the most successful team in Liga MX history with 12 league titles,Chivas is a close second with 11, then Toluca with 10. The Tijuana Xolos do only have one title, but have only been in the league since 2011.

The Points System

This is basic throughout most soccer competitions around the world, which stays consistent in the Liga MX. A win is three points, a tie is one point and a loss is a big, fat 0.

What is A Clausura? What is an Apertura?

The Liga MX has two short tournaments throughout one season. For example; right now we are in the latter half of the 2016/2017 season with the Clausura 2017 tournament. The opening of the season was in the Apertura 2016 tournament, which started in July of 2016. The two tournaments are completely separate competitions with a champion awarded in each one. The Apertura signals the beginning of a season, while the Clausura is the ending of a season.

How Many Games In A Tournament?

Each Apertura and Clausura is made up of seventeen jornadas, or weeks. Unlike in the MLB or NFL, each team will play each other at one point during the tournament.

Credit: Logosequipos

Playoffs Structure

The playoff structure for the Liga MX is quite simple; the top eight teams who accumulate the most points move on to the playoffs. The match-ups are based on which place the teams ended with in the competition. The first place team will play the eighth place team, the second place team will play the seventh place team, and so on. Each playoff matchup is determined by two games, or legs. The number of goals is accumulated to decide the winner. The tie-breaker is the amount of away goals for each team. So let’s say the Xolos tie against Club America 1-1 in Mexico City in the first game, then in the second game the teams tie 0-0 at the Estadio Caliente. The Xolos would move on because they scored that away goal. Now, what happens if the teams have the same amount of away goals? Highest finish during the regular season is the next tie-breaker. So let’s say the Xolos Beat Club America 1-0 in Mexico City in the first game. Then Club America comes back and beat the Xolos 1-0 at the Estadio Caliente in the second match. Since the Xolos finished in first place and Club America finished in eighth place the Xolos move on to the next round of the playoffs. All of this is eliminated in the final of the Liga MX. In the final, the goals are still accumulated from both legs to determine the winner. However if there is a tie, there will be extra-time and penalties if needed.


What makes soccer distinct from most other sports is relegation. In the MLB, the same 30 teams are guaranteed to be in the league, regardless of their performance. There are occasional shifts, like teams moving to other cities, but it is a rare occurrence. In the Liga MX, if your performance is below par, there is this phenomenon called relegation. Each season, a team from the Liga MX goes to the second division of Mexican soccer to make way for a team from the second division. The way that team is determined is by a relegation table. The table is composed of the points-per-game-played ratio of each team from the last three seasons, or last six tournaments. The lowest ratio will determine the team that gets relegated. Right now, the worst ratio is held by Monarcas Morelia, but three other teams are close, which makes this tournament especially interesting. The Xolos are safe from harm this season, as they are in 10th place on the relegation table.


The Xolos do not have an actual rival. You could argue that Xolos’ main rival is Atlas because of certain incidents between fans in the past. But it is nothing compared to the top rivalries within the Liga MX. The biggest of them all is ‘El Clasico’, the big match between Chivas de Guadalajara and Club America. The rivalry is between the two most popular teams in the nation. and always results in a great match. Other rivalries between Liga MX clubs are regional. Chivas vs Atlas is a big one, because both teams are from Guadalajara. Then you have ‘El Clasico Regio’, which features two teams from Nuevo Leon, in Monterrey and Tigres UANL. The game is always a spectacle because of the huge fan bases the teams have regionally. Finally, you have the Young Rivalry or the ‘Clasico Joven’ between Club America and Cruz Azul. Both teams are from Mexico City and are among the ‘big four’, which makes for a great game. The match is referred to as the ‘Clasico Joven’ because the rivalry is fairly new compared to others, as it started in the 1970’s. These are your Yankees vs Red Sox matches in the Liga MX, the top must-watch games for anyone who enjoys the sport of soccer.


The league is among the most competitive and unpredictable sports leagues in the world. On any given day, the best team can fall to a team fighting relegation. This is both a fact and an opinion. A good example of this is the Xolos, who were in first place, fell 2-1 to 15th place Necaxa last Friday at the Estadio Caliente. The best showcasing of how competitive this league is, is the fact that in the last three years there has been five different teams who have won a tournament.(Tigres, Pachuca, Santos Laguna, Club America, Leon). The league is truly a spectacle, once you immerse yourself into it.

What is The Copa Corona MX?

The Copa MX is a competition held twice a season, once in the Apertura and the other during the Clausura. The competition features a mix of 27 teams from the Liga MX and from the Ascenso MX, which is the second division league of Mexican soccer. Teams are split into nine groups of three teams. The top team of each group and the top seven second place teams which accumulate the most points will then go on to the playoffs, or the knockout stages of the tournament. The competition is not greatly appreciated and the games are played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which make for poor attendances.

The 10/8 Rule

The Liga MX has always been a league which brings top quality players from Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and all over South America. It is arguably the biggest and best soccer league in the Americas, which attracts players from all over the continent. The amount of foreign teams have has always been a controversial topic, because people say it doesn’t allow young Mexican players to get a chance to play. A good example of this would be the Tijuana Xolos, who on most matches only have two Mexican-born players in their starting 11. There have been rules and regulations throughout the years to try to limit the amount of foreigners coming in. Most recently, the 10/8 rule came about, which allows Liga MX teams to have a maximum of 10 foreigners during match-day rosters.

Watch Liga MX in English

In case you were not aware, you can watch all the Xolos’ home games in English. The games are broadcast on Azteca America, but you can hit the SAP button and hear the match in English in San Diego County. Recently, Univision Deportes also announced that it will start to broadcast Liga MX matches in English via Facebook Live, the first of which will be the big rivalry match between Chivas and America this Saturday at 7:06 P.M. PST. The league is getting a push towards audiences in the U.S., and since we have a team across the border, it is a convenient league to get into, especially if you are feeling the void of the NFL. This is about everything you need to know to get into the wonderful Liga MX. Now, start watching.

2 thoughts on “How The Liga MX Works: Points System, Playoffs, Relegation & More (Tijuana Xolos)

  1. Nice article. Xolos DO have a special rivalry , it is Leon (has been since their respective days in the second division).

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