May 1, 2012, 5:01 PM EDT
The two clubs that contested CONCACAF’s championship finished at the top of Mexico’s standings. Santos Laguna, who lost Champions League to Monterrey last week, finished four points clear of the Rayados, earning the Liguilla’s top seed.
In Mexico, that seeding’s particularly important, for four reasons:
- Like most playoff formats, the top seed gets matched against the highest seed in the playoffs; however,
- Since Mexico re-draws their bracket in the semifinals (pairing the lowest surviving seed with the highest), the qualification stage’s winner always has the easiest road to the final.
- The lowest seed always gets the second leg (in each round’s two-legged matchup) at home, and
- If a matchup ends tied after both legs, the lower seed advances (until the final).
But even with all those advantages, it would surprise no one if Santos bowed out early.
#1 Santos Laguna (36 points, 17 games) vs. #8 Jaguares (27 points)
Though this is a rematch of the Apertura’s playoffs (won by Santos), a different kind of history is leaning on this matchup.
The fall of 2009 was the last time a top seed (superlider) advanced beyond the quarterfinals. Even then, it was only via a tiebreaker.
|Year||Tournament||Superlider||Quarterfinal Result||Champion (Seed)|
|2011||Apertura||Chivas||lost to Querétaro, 1-2||Tigres (3)|
|Clausura||Tigres||lost to Chivas, 2-4||Pumas (2)|
|2010||Apertura||Cruz Azul||lost to Pumas, 3-2||Monterrey (2)|
|Clausura||Monterrey||lost to Pachuca, 1-3, quarterfinals||Toluca (3)|
|2009||Apertura||Toluca||defeated San Luis, 1-1||Monterrey (5)|
The last time a superlider won a Liguilla was the 2007 Clausura (Pachuca).
Beyond the premature exits for one seeds, there’s another pattern in there: Superliders have won the subsequent competition in their off the last four tournament (presumably motived by defeat). That won’t happen this time. Chivas was so motivated by their loss to Querétaro that they didn’t qualify for the Liguilla. Copa Lib may have had something to do with that.
Back to Santos. There’s no reason to believe there’s an actual superlider curse. Since people have come to think the qualification stage as something completely separate from the playoffs (and only slightly predictive), there’s no real pressure on the number one seed.
A more likely explanation for the curse: Teams that finish top in the regular season aren’t necessarily the best teams. They’re just the ones that tried harder during the regular season.
With Santos balancing CONCACAF Champions League’s knockout stages throughout the Clausura, that reason doesn’t hold up as well this tournament. Regardless, they finished number one, they have to debunk the curse, and in truth, they probably aren’t the tournament’s best team.
Quarterfinal matches: Thursday, at Jaguares, 8:00 p.m. ET; Sunday, at Santos, 7:00 p.m. ET
Recent meetings: Santos 1-0 Jaguares (Jan. 2012), Santos 1-2 Jaguares (Nov. 2011), Jaguares 2-2 Santos (Nov. 2011), Jaguares 3-2 Santos (Sep. 2011), Jaguares 1-2 Santos (Jan. 2011)
#2 Monterrey (32 points) vs. #7 Tijuana (28 points)
Most would contend Monterrey is the best team in this tournament. Long regarded as the most talented team in Mexico, the Rayados just completed their second-straight CONCACAF Champions League triumph. If there was any fear that result would cause them to flick it in neutral for league, it was alleviated by their second place finish.
They’ve got an easy first round matchup. Tijuana started the Clausura strong but evened out through the last half of qualification. They finished with the league’s best defense (allowing only 11 goals in 17 matches), but their 18 goals scored are four less than any other Liguilla qualifier.
This being their first postseason, it’s difficult to see them getting past a team of Monterrey’s pedigree, but talent won’t be enough. After all, Cruz Azul – also regarded as one of the league’s most talented squads – didn’t even make the playoffs.
Quarterfinal matches: Wednesday, at Tijuana, 10:30 p.m. ET; Saturday, at Monterrey, 9:00 p.m. ET
Recent meetings: Tijuana 1-0 Monterrey (Jan. 2012), Monterrey 4-2 Tijuana (Aug. 2011)
#3 Club América (32 points) vs. #6 Pachuca (28 points)
Club América blew a two goal lead on their final match to lose the second seed. As a result, they face Pachuca instead of Tijuana, an opponent few would prefer.
But as evidenced on Sunday, América has a trump card. Christian Benítez might be the best attacker in the region. In this weekend’s Clasico Joven, he scored twice within the first 13 minutes (though missed what would have been a game-winning penalty kick). His double left him with a league-leading 14 goals.
Unfortunately, he was bit of a one-man gang. While he led the league in goals, the rest of his team only scored 16.
It’s difficult to see Pachuca winning if they can’t slow down Chucho.
Quarterfinal matches: Wednesday, at Pachuca, 9:30 p.m. ET; Saturday, at América, 7:00 p.m. ET
Recent meetings: América 1-0 Pachuca (Feb. 2012), Pachuca 2-0 América (Aug. 2011), América 0-2 Pachuca (Jan. 2011)
#4 Morelia (31 points) vs. #5 Tigres (31 points)
Tigres rode incredible defending to win the Apertura, allowing only 1 goal through the Liguilla. It would be a mistake to doubt the resourcefulness of Morelia’s Miguel Sabah and Rafael Marquez Lugo, though Monarcas’ defense will need to make every goal count.
Just like superliders, Tigres have history to defy. The last time a team won consecutive tournaments was 2004 when Pumas won the calendar year’s Clausura and Apertura. No team has won both tournaments within a single season since the two short tournament-format was adopted 16 years ago.
Quarterfinal matches: Thursday, at Tigres, 10:00 p.m. ET; Sunday, at Morelia, 9:00 p.m. ET
Recent meetings: Tigres 4-1 Morelia (Mar. 2012), Morelia 2-0 Tigres (Oct. 2011), Morelia 0-3 Tigres (Apr. 2011)
Apr 20, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT
Red Devils rocking, as Everton come out flying:
Apr 20, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
With the Miami port vehemently against the new stadium deal, Miami’s mayor comes to Beckham’s side.
Apr 20, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil were back in the starting lineup and Arsenal looked like a rejuvenated bunch.
Apr 20, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
David Moyes returns to his old home as Everton continues their fight for a Champions League place.
Apr 20, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
It’s been nearly five months since his last goal, but Aaron Ramsey picked up where he left off to give Arsenal the lead at KC.
Apr 20, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
Raheem Sterling shined and they held off a charging Norwich at the end to go five points clear at the top.
Apr 20, 2014, 8:35 AM EDT
Mesut Ozil returns for Arsenal after a 6-week absence, can he lead Arsenal’s charge for the top four?
Apr 20, 2014, 7:48 AM EDT
With a reduced role under David Moyes, Welbeck may search elsewhere in the Premier League for a better managerial relationship.
Apr 20, 2014, 7:13 AM EDT
The Reds are well on their way to going top, but Norwich are battling with attacks of their own.
Apr 20, 2014, 6:37 AM EDT
It’s all on the line for both teams this morning in a massive game for each end of the table. Liverpool can put one hand on the title trophy with a win today, going five clear at the top.
Apr 20, 2014, 4:57 AM EDT
Liverpool can go five clear before David Moyes makes his return to Goodison Park.
Apr 20, 2014, 3:53 AM EDT
Dallas stayed at the top of the Western Conference, while Seattle improved to 3-0-1 on the road.
Apr 20, 2014, 2:39 AM EDT
Seattle’s high-priced strike tandem produced another late winner, giving the Sounders their fourth win of the season.
Apr 20, 2014, 1:51 AM EDT
Two huge saves in the final minutes from Nick Rimando keep RSL unbeaten.
Apr 20, 2014, 1:05 AM EDT
Goal difference has the defending champions on top of the Eastern Conference.
Apr 20, 2014, 12:35 AM EDT
Two more goals off set pieces gave FC Dallas its fifth win of the season.
Apr 19, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT
Juan Guzman gave Giancarlo Gonzalez a pass. Columbus came back to claim a draw.
Apr 19, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT
Two separate leads were pulled back as the Whitecaps fought back at BC Place.
Apr 19, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT
NBC’s team on the scene reacts to the day’s big result:
Apr 19, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT
San Jose remains without a win beside playing the second place Rapids to a standstill.
- Miami mayor hits back at Beckham stadium critics 1
- Norwich City 2-3 Liverpool: Sterling, Reds with one hand on the title 3
- Premier League Sunday Preview: Liverpool’s chance to tighten its grip; Fourth place in focus 0
- MLS Roundup: Sporting climbs to first in East; RSL stays undefeated 0
- Late Martins goal gives Seattle full points at Chivas USA (video) 0
- Grabavoy winner prolongs Portland’s agony against Real Salt Lake (video) 0