Liga MX 101: The terms, rivalries and names you need to know
With two seasons each year, both of which employ a playoff system, a draft that isn't really a draft in the traditional sense and a "big four" that often struggles, Liga MX can be a tricky league for the uninitiated to get into. But it is also the most watched on television in the United States and has been steadily improving its international appeal in recent years.
With the 2018 Clausura underway, we thought now would be a timely opportunity to straighten out some of the terminology that is often used even in English-language coverage of Liga MX.
The basic terminology
Liguilla: Literally "little league" or "short tournament," which means the end-of-season playoffs. The liguilla can also be referred to as the "fiesta grande" or the "big party." The away goal rule counts in the quarterfinals and semifinals but is scrapped for the final.
Apertura: The "opening" season, stretching from July until December.
Clausura: The "closing" season, running from January until May.
Los cuatro grandes: Club America, Chivas, Cruz Azul and Pumas are the "big four" in Mexico. The underlying reason is that they're the four clubs that boast country-wide support. America and Chivas are tied on 12 Liga MX titles each, with Cruz Azul on eight and Pumas on seven, so there is obviously an element of success that goes with the status. Only Toluca (10 titles) breaks the "big four" in terms of league championships.
Tabla de cociente: The relegation league. This is a separate table worked out by the points per game average for each team stretching back three years (six seasons) from the end of each Clausura. The team with the worst ratio of points to games played goes down to the second division: Ascenso MX. It is often suggested that the system is skewed against the most recently promoted side because that team's ratio fluctuates in a more volatile way.
Draft: The biannual get together on the last day of the domestic transfer window in which club owners meet to trade players and register the transactions with Liga MX. The summer version, ahead of each Apertura, is traditionally held in a plush hotel in the resort town of Cancun. Players not able to find a new club on the day are controversially left on the outside to search abroad for somewhere to play. The recently founded players' association is seeking to end this draft practice.
Pacto de Caballeros: The infamous "gentlemen's pact" between club owners. This unwritten constitution governing Mexican football is most widely associated with Liga MX clubs not respecting freedom of contract. In other words, if a player's contract runs down, the club he leaves will still be able to ask for a transfer fee, at least domestically. But the pact is also a mechanism to ensure club owners have control over decision-making.
Players' Association: The AMFpro was formed last October, but it is backed by Mexico internationals and looks set to be a key component in fighting for players' rights.
Junta de Duenos: Loosely a biannual Liga MX owners' meeting in which the club presidents decide issues pertaining to the league. The subjects tackled range from the mundane (scheduling of the Apertura and Clausura tournaments) to discussing rules on foreigners, TV deals and even issues relating the Mexican national team.
Copa MX: Cup competition played in the Apertura and Clausura and involving teams from Mexico's top two divisions. The winners of each cup tournament each year play in the Supercopa MX, which is usually held in July in the United States.
Campeon de Campeones: The Liga MX champions of each season play against each other to determine that ultimate champion over the Apertura and Clausura, with the game usually played in July in the United States. The title does not hold anywhere near the same prestige as an Apertura or Clausura title.
Liga MX Femenil: The women's Liga MX, which began in the 2017 Apertura. There are currently 16 Liga MX clubs involved, with Lobos BUAP and Puebla not fielding teams.
Los Clasicos: Most of Mexico's clasicos are city or regional derbies.
Clasico Nacional, Super Clasico or Clasico de Clasicos: Historically Mexico's biggest and most important game, pitting the all-Mexican side Chivas from Guadalajara against Club America from Mexico City.
Clasico Regio or Regiomontano: Tigres vs. Monterrey, in the battle of Nuevo Leon. This rivalry has always been fierce but has been increasingly important of late due to the quality of each team.
Clasico Tapatio: Guadalajara's most important derby between Atlas and Chivas. This is the oldest clasico in Mexico.
Clasico Joven: The "young clasico" between Mexico City rivals Club America and Cruz Azul.
Clasico Capitalino: Pumas vs. Club America in another Mexico City derby.
Team nicknames (not all of which translate immaculately)
America: Las Aguilas (The Eagles), Los Azulcremas (The Blue-and-Creams)
Atlas: Los Zorros (The Foxes), La Academia (The Academy), Los Rojinegros (The Red-and-Blacks)
Cruz Azul: La Maquina (The Machine), Los Cementeros (The Cement Makers)
Guadalajara: Las Chivas (The Goats), El Rebano Sagrado (The Sacred Herd), Los Rojiblancos (The Red-and-Whites)
Leon: La Fiera (The Wild Beast), Los Panzas Verdes (The Green Bellies), Los Esmeraldas (The Emeralds)
Lobos BUAP: Los Lobos (The Wolves), La Manada (The Pack)
Monterrey: Los Rayados (The Striped Ones), La Pandilla (The Gang)
Morelia: Monarcas (The Monarchs), La Monarquia (The Monarchy)
Necaxa: Los Rayos (The Thunderbolts)
Pachuca: Los Tuzos (The Gophers)
Puebla: La Franja (The Stripe), Los Camoteros (The Sweet Potatoers)
Pumas UNAM: Los Universitarios (The University Team)
Queretaro: Los Gallos Blancos (The White Roosters)
Santos Laguna: Los Guerreros (The Warriors)
Tigres: Los Felinos (The Felines), Los Universitarios (The University Team)
Tijuana: Los Xoloitzcuientles or Los Xolos (The Mexican Hairless Dogs), La Jauria (The Pack)
Toluca: Los Diablos Rojos (The Red Devils), Los Choriceros (The Sausage Makers)
Veracruz: Los Tiburones Rojos (The Red Sharks), Los Escualos (The Sharks)
Nicknames of bigger teams not in Liga MX
Atlante: Los Potros (The Colts)
Atletico San Luis: Los Tuneros (The Prickly Pears), Los Potosinos (People from San Luis Potosi)
Celaya: Los Toros (The Bulls), Los Cajeteros (The Caramel Makers)
FC Juarez: Los Bravos (The Brave Ones)
Dorados de Sinaloa: El Gran Pez (The Great Fish)
Universidad de Guadalajara: Leones Negros (Black Lions), Los Melenudos (The Hairy Ones)
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.