The 2016 Apertura regular season is officially over. 10 teams are finished, while the top eight enter the liguilla in pursuit of the championship. We saw a lot of positives during the season, including a nearly 2,000 fans per game increase over the 2015 Apertura. We also saw some bad news, in that Mexican clubs will not be participating in the 2017 Copa Libertadores. It was as fun a season as any, but for now let’s just recap the final weekend and save the full review for after the playoffs.
The Remaining Eight. In order, the teams qualified for the liguilla are: Tijuana, Pachuca, Tigres, Chivas, América, Pumas, Necaxa, and León. It’s hard to look at any team in that group and say, “They’ve got no chance.” Each of these squads has been brilliant for at least some stretch of the season, showing that they have the capabilities to compete with the very best of Liga MX.
The High Seed Advantage. While it’s true that even the lowest seeded team holds a legitimate chance to win it all, (see Santos Laguna from Clausura 2015, who won from the 8th position. In fact, the 1-4 seeds all failed to advance past the first round that liguilla) the benefit of the higher seed cannot be understated. Tijuana and Pachuca have only one home loss between them, and since a series tied on aggregate and away goals is awarded to the higher seed, teams will likely need to win at Estadio Caliente and Estadio Hidalgo respectively.
Who Goes Down? Away from the playoff race, the battle to remain in Liga MX heated up this weekend. Jaguares and Veracruz picked up huge wins to reignite their survival hopes, while Monarcas fell to Monterrey. Morelia currently sit last in the tabla de cociente, two points behind Veracruz, and four behind Jaguares. They can at least take pride in the fact that newly signed striker Raúl Ruidiaz led the league with 11 goals, and will be a valuable asset for them in their relegation fight.
Game of the Season? América’s jornada 17 encounter with Pachuca was certainly one of the most entertaining games of the season. If the stakes were higher and both teams had not already clinched a playoff spot, it would be pretty tough to argue against it being near the top of the list. Even América’s comeback victory over Cruz Azul did not have the same back and forth feel as this one. Las Aguilas were down 2-0 early, then stormed back to take the lead on a golazo by Michael Arroyo, and then blew it again to draw 3-3. It was the type of game that you wish happened every week.
El Súper Clásico. Oh boy, what a year for this rivalry. We already saw a playoff series between the two giants of Mexican futbol during the 2016 Clausura, and of course they met in the Copa MX semifinal just a few weeks ago. Now we will once again be treated to two extra matches of Súper Clásico action. The winners of this series will hold bragging rights for 2016 as a whole as far as this rivalry is concerned.