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Apertura 2022: how many regular-season winners have lifted Liga MX title?

In the short-tournament era, Liga MX leaders Club América are one of only six teams to have followed up regular-season success with victory in the playoffs.

Edgardo Avelar
América vs Cruz Azul Clausura 2018

Club América’s outstanding form in the Liga MX makes them the major candidate to win the Apertura 2022 title. Currently on a run of 10 wins and a draw in their last 11 league games, Fernando Ortiz’s men lead the table going into the final round of regular-season fixtures.

However, the history of the Mexican elite division’s short-tournament era shows that winning the league phase is no guarantee of success when the competition moves on to the playoff stage.

Indeed, since the Liga MX’s 1996 introduction of the Apertura and Clausura format - ’opening’ and ‘closing’ tournaments held in the autumn and spring, respectively - América themselves are one of just a handful of clubs who have been crowned overall champions after leading the way at the end of the regular season.

Six clubs have won league and playoff phases in same tournament

Las Águilas achieved such a double under Argentine head coach Antonio Mohamed in the Apertura 2014, and only five other teams have done so in the 52 short tournaments played over the past 26 years: Cruz Azul, León and Santos Laguna have managed it once; Toluca and Pachuca, twice.

Pachuca won both regular season and playoffs in the Clausura 2006 and Clausura 2007, while Toluca did so in the Verano 1998 and Verano 2000 (initially, the Liga MX’s two short tournaments were known as the Invierno ‘winter’ and Verano ‘summer’ championships).

Cruz Azul pulled off the feat in the Clausura 2021 - ending a 24-year wait for a Mexican league title - as did León in the Apertura 2020 and Santos in the Clausura 2012.

See also:

Cruz Azul hit by hoodoo in memorable final defeat

While Cruz Azul are among the few Liga MX teams to have broken the curse of the ‘superlíder’, they also offer up a notable recent example of a regular-season winner that peaked too soon. Having been the dominant force throughout the Clausura 2018, Los Celestes let the title slip from their grasp at the very last hurdle, losing the final to an América side that had also beaten them to the championship five years earlier.

At a glance: winners of Liga MX regular season and playoffs

  • Pachuca: Clausura 2006, Clausura 2007
  • Toluca: Verano 1998, Verano 2000
  • América: Apertura 2014
  • Cruz Azul: Clausura 2021
  • León: Apertura 2020
  • Santos Laguna: Clausura 2021

Monterrey could yet pip América to top spot

It may be, though, that América do not have to deal with the pressure that comes with being regular-season top dogs. Second-placed Monterrey, who sit just one point behind, still have every chance of leapfrogging the men from Mexico City on matchday 17 of the Apertura 2022.

While América must negotiate an away assignment against Puebla, Rayados will have the advantage of being the home team when they face Pachuca.