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Promotion and relegation in Liga MX: how does it work?

The Liga MX is the top division in Mexican football with two tournaments played per year, but how many teams get relegated and promoted?

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 18: Rodrigo Huescas of Cruz Azul fights for the ball with Cesar Huerta of Pumas during the 15th round match between Pumas UNAM and Cruz Azul as part of the Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX at Olimpico Universitario Stadium on September 18, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images)
Agustin CuevasGetty

The league system in Mexico is vastly different to those in Europe’s major football leagues and recently underwent some temporary format changes.

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The Liga MX is the highest division within Mexican football with two tournaments, Apertura and Clausura, played per year. Each of those tournaments are split into two parts - the regular season followed by a mini-league of play-offs called the Liguilla. The final phase of the competition is played through instant-knockout ties - quarter finals, semi-finals and final.

Liga MX competition format

The Liga MX, the top division, consists of 18 teams, with those finishing in the top four positions qualifying directly for the Liguilla. The teams which finish from fifth to twelfth go straight into a series of reclassification play-offs played over one game -  5th plays 12th, 6th plays 11th, 7th plays 10th and 8th plays 9th. The four winners will then advance to the quarter finals.

Changes were made to the system of promotion and relegation in 2020. Under the previous format, from 1994 until 2020, the team which finished in 18th position in the Liga MX would drop down into the Liga Ascenso MX, the second tier. The place of the relegated club would be taken by the champions of the Liga Ascenso MX, whose format is similar - regular season, play-offs, quarter finals, semi-finals and final.

Temporary changes

However, in June 2020, the Mexican Football Federation made adjustments to the competition rules with the aim of strengthening both of the top two divisions and protecting those who had been affected by economic fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic. Several clubs were on the brink of bankruptcy due to loss of income from turnstile receipts and television rights so a decision was made to help them through the crisis.

The Liga Ascenso MX was rebranded, and is now known as the Liga de Expansión MX. A total of 18 clubs play in the second tier but under the FMF’s new Stability Project, no team would be relegated from the Liga MX or promoted to the top flight from the Liga de Expansión MX for a period of six years - giving the clubs that had been affected by the crisis a chance to get themselves back on their feet. So at least until 2026, no team can be promoted or relegated in Mexico’s top two divisions.


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