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How does Liga MX’s new play-in format work in the Apertura 2023 playoffs? Who qualifies?

Club América and Tigres have already booked their ‘liguilla’ quarter-final places, with Monterrey on the verge of joining them.

Club América and Tigres have already booked their ‘liguilla’ quarter-final places, with Monterrey on the verge of joining them. 


(I-D) Martin Barragan de Puebla y Jorge Diaz de Leon durante el partido Puebla vs Leon, correspondiente a la Jornada 03 del Torneo Apertura 2022 de la Liga BBVA MX en el Estadio Cuauhtemoc, el 15 de julio de 2022.
Jose Luis Melgarejo

The end of Liga MX Apertura 2023′s league phase is fast approaching, with the majority of the 18 teams in Mexico’s top flight having two matches left to play (Monterrey and Santos Laguna are the exceptions with three). Club América are already assured of ending up as “super leaders”, while Tigres also know they will be taking part in the end-of-season liguilla. Rayados, meanwhile, are guaranteed a spot in the new play-in round at the very minimum.

Liga MX playoffs format change

There has been a change in format for the Apertura 2023 tournament with regards to qualification for the playoffs, which will ultimately decide which team is crowned champions (sorry, América fans). In recent seasons, the top four teams at the end of the league phase qualified directly for the liguilla quarter-finals, with those finishing between fifth and 12th taking part in the repechaje/reclassification qualifying round.

Those eight clubs were drawn against one other in four one-off ties (5th vs 12th, 6th vs 11th, 7th vs 10th, 8th vs 9th), with the winners completing the set of quarter-finalists. There was therefore plenty for almost all of the league’s 18 teams to play for up until the last week of the league phrase, but the team finishing 12th could ultimately end up winning the title.

Play-in introduced for Apertura 2023

The new format is slightly less forgiving for those in the bottom half of the standings, with 11th and 12th-place finishes now no longer enough to have at shot a glory. The league’s top six teams now qualify directly for the quarter-finals, with only two spots up for grabs via the new play-in round.

The team that finishes seventh hosts the eighth-place team, with the winner sealing their place in the quarter-finals. The loser of that fixture then hosts the winner of the meeting between the ninth and 10th-place teams for the final last-eight berth. Simple, right?

With two fixtures left (for most clubs), only bottom-of-the-table Necaxa know they will not be part of the end-of-season action. Everyone else still has everything to play for.