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)
Mar 9, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT
It likely means very little, but it’s a narrative we’ll be watching all year… and the first salvo belongs to the Western Conference.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
He’s in Barcelona. She’s from Colombia. Their kid is named Milan.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT
It was a small sample size for the Premier League, but that didn’t stop some stars from shining in Round 29.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT
With Levante already trailing Real Madrid 2-0, David Navarro took a red card for a harsh foul on the international star.
Mar 9, 2014, 8:23 PM EDT
Aside from the Gunners, there shouldn’t be too many hurt feelings amongst the other giants of Europe.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:33 PM EDT
The Old Lady beats Fiorentina to extend lead atop Serie A, dismiss opponents’ threat to third.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Knee ailment sees Dutch midfielder out of match after 12 minutes.
Quick Six: Chelsea’s second halves, Fulham helps Cardiff, and the rest of the headlines from this weekend’s Premier League action
Mar 9, 2014, 6:56 PM EDT
The Blues are seven points clear, Fulham moves clear to the second tier, and Manchester United illuminate the depths of West Brom.
Mar 9, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
It was Valladolid’s first win over Barcelona since October 2012, and “boosted” their record in the rivalry to 4W-5D-23L.
Mar 9, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT
That’s a photo from an actual Serie A match between Lazio and Atalanta. Wow.
Mar 9, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT
Wilmer Cabrera gets a win in his debut as boss of Chivas USA.
Mar 9, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT
This Johannsson kid is easily the best Icelandic-Alabaman we’ve seen in a long time.
Mar 9, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
Meyler capped off a long run with a left-footed finish to score the second of Hull’s three goals in a shutout win over Sunderland on Sunday.
Mar 9, 2014, 3:26 PM EDT
It’s a horrifying story, and one that is sure to have severe repercussions throughout Ghana’s soccer structure.
Mar 9, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
With Pique picking up his fourth yellow against Real Valladolid, he could sit next league match to ensure his availability against Real Madrid.
Mar 9, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT
At least one of Wigan, Hull City or Sheffield United will make the FA Cup final as the quarterfinals are complete and the semifinal draw is out.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:37 PM EDT
In the midst of a 4-match winless skid in the Bundesliga – 5 if you include the Champions League drubbing by PSG – Bayer Leverkusen now lose a key midfield component.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT
An offshore Swiss bank account has betrayed the 62-year-old as he faces 10 years in prison.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:23 AM EDT
Jozy Altidore was left out of the Sunderland squad today thanks to a knock he picked up in training, but this season as a whole has been a train wreck.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:26 AM EDT
According to the player’s agent and brother, an English club – and possibly multiple – made a large offer for the defender, but he is happy at Real Madrid.
- In MLS, West is best… at least for a weekend 1
- Netherlands and Roma on alert after Kevin Strootman carted off against Napoli 0
- Quick Six: Chelsea’s second halves, Fulham helps Cardiff, and the rest of the headlines from this weekend’s Premier League action 0
- Americans Abroad Review: Boyd and Johannsson shine again 1
- WATCH: Saturday’s top 5 goals in Major League Soccer 0
- MLS roundup: Houston, Vancouver sit on top of their conferences after day one 0
- Red Bulls' Opening Act Has A Nightmare Finish
- MLS 2014: Dream Team of Week 1
- Jens Lehmann Downplays Guardiola's Bayern Munich
- Chivas USA Hang on to Take all 3 Points From Chicago Fire
- Three Things: Manchester City - Wigan
- Monarcas Morelia Hire 4th Manager of the Season
- What Moyes Really Meant by Asking Fans for More Time at Man United
- Manchester United Set to Sign Record $1 Billion Sponsorship Deal with Nike
- Will Johnson: We Weren't All Quite at the Races
- Owners Legal Issues Have Caught Up to Queretaro