Skip to content

Mexico’s playoffs start Wednesday: Looking at the quarterfinal matchups

May 1, 2012, 5:01 PM EDT

Something to Cheer For Soccer AP

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)

Latest Posts
  1. FOLLOW LIVE — 2015 Copa America: Hosts Chile vs. Peru in semifinal no. 1

    Jun 29, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    Arturo Vidal, Chile Arturo Vidal, Chile

    By the end of tonight, either Chile or Peru will have booked their place in the final.

  2. MLS Player of the Week — Week 17: Portland Timbers’ Darlington Nagbe

    Jun 29, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT

    Darlington Nagbe, Portland Timbers — Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer - Portland Timbers Darlington Nagbe, Portland Timbers — Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer - Portland Timbers

    A goal and an assist — finally a dominant performance — in the weekend’s biggest rivalry game earns Darlington Nagbe POTW honors.

  3. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 17

    Jun 29, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers

    “Rivalry Week” is in the books, and a number of derby day conquerors find themselves on the last MLS Team of the Week.

  4. Men in Blazers podcast special: USWNT’s Klingenberg talks defense, Germany, karate

    Jun 29, 2015, 3:21 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog talks with the USWNT’s Meghan Klingenberg about the team’s lockdown defense, her karate training, and living with Jeff Van Gundy’s family.

  5. Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fifth round preview: Cosmos look to do MLS’ N.Y. double, Charlotte hits Chicago

    Jun 29, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT

    New York Cosmos player Lucky Mkosana (R) greets teammate Spanish Raul Gonzalez (L) during a Cuba vs New York Cosmos friendly soccer match on June 2, 2015 at Pedro Marrero stadium in Havana. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL  LAGE        (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Here’s what’s on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday as the USSF tournament stays regional.

  6. Report: Chinese side spends close to $15 million on Spurs’ Paulinho

    Jun 29, 2015, 12:52 PM EDT

    Paulinho's 63rd minute red card allowed a bright Liverpool attack even more space to work. Getty Images

    Guangzhou Evergrande have added a big name to their title charge in the Chinese Super League.

  7. Preview: Copa America semifinals — Can Peru, Paraguay stop an Argentina-Chile final?

    Jun 29, 2015, 11:39 AM EDT

    Paraguay's forward Derlis Gonzalez celebrates after scoring against Brazil during their 2015 Copa America football championship quarter-final match, in Concepcion, Chile, on June 27, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA        (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Many if not all neutral fans expect Argentina and Chile to make it through their Copa America semifinals en route to a border battle final.

  8. It’s official: Petr Cech has swapped London clubs, Chelsea to Arsenal

    Jun 29, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Arsenal.com Arsenal.com

    That picture is weird, but we’ll get used to it once the Premier League season begins in August.

  9. 2015 Major League Soccer power rankings, Volume V: ‘Caps cap, Quakes shake up the Top Five

    Jun 29, 2015, 10:06 AM EDT

    cD05ODdlNmNhY2MwMjRlZWQzNTJhM2ViYTQ1Y2VlY2YzOCZnPWYzZDIwZmI4ODJlMjBlNjI2ZmZmN2JiMjRkOWM3ZjM4 Getty Images

    Less talking, more ranking. Feel free to debate in the comments section.

  10. Spanish football league becomes first to take legal action over Qatar World Cup dates

    Jun 29, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Javier Tebas, President of Liga de Futbol Profesional during the Soccerex European Forum Conference Programme on September 10, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    FIFA’s weather-related move of the 2022 World Cup from to November-December has its first legal challenge.

  11. England’s case of World Cup fever just what the doctor ordered for women’s soccer in Britain

    Jun 29, 2015, 7:57 AM EDT

    during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Round of 16 match between Norway and England at Lansdowne Stadium on June 22, 2015 in Ottawa, Canada. Getty Images

    Could women’s football in England be en route to a Brandi Chastain moment of their own?

  12. WATCH: Pirlo, Van Persie, others play head-tennis game in Miami

    Jun 28, 2015, 11:37 PM EDT

    Juventus v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Final Getty Images

    Some vacationing footballers enjoying a bit of head-tennis

  13. US defender Krieger ready for familiar foe Germany in meeting of world’s top two teams

    Jun 28, 2015, 8:31 PM EDT

    USA  defender Ali Krieger takes part in a training session in Montreal on June 28, 2015 two days ahead of 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final football match against Germany. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Krieger is fluent in German and familiar with Tuesday’s semifinal opponent.

  14. U.S. forward Aron Johannsson: I want to play in MLS “at the peak of my career”

    Jun 28, 2015, 6:46 PM EDT

    aron_johannsson Getty Images

    AZ Alkmaar forward Aron Johannsson wants to switch to MLS in the prime of his career.

Featured video

PST Extra: Sterling & latest transfer gossip